Nov 15 Week 4

Okay, so last week saw the release of the “Slap It Down” mix of “Arrowsmash”. I decided that my free releases are going to be titled “Slap It Down” mixes, in reference to the fact that I’m really just trying to get the idea out there for consumption and feedback. Reaction to the song itself thus far seems to be positive overall, which I’m happy about. The most negative comment was to the effect of “Your screaming is far better than your death metal growling”, which I sort of already knew. If you’ve downloaded the song, feel free to comment somewhere on the site, even if you didn’t necessarily like it! The release of the song also brought a predictable traffic spike, at least short-term. This is a Good Thing, and will continue to be so until my site traffic increases by about ten thousand fold.

This week brought more recording of some instrumental tracks. While I have the house to myself for a bit, I should really be recording more vocals, but instead I’m taking a break from playing StarCraft with some dudes from The Shizz to write this post. My cousin (Whose site you can get to from the sidebar…hint: It’s not The Shizz, the ACS, or SDA) would probably agree that I clearly have my priorities in order. Speaking of StarCraft, in the campaign I managed to get past my Zerg trouble spot, and the next mission was actually not all that difficult either. It’s amazing what havoc two dozen Mutalisks can bring down upon pretty much anything in single-player mode (In multi-player, of course, you won’t have the luxury of sitting back and amassing tons of units, at least not without being constantly attacked yourself).

I also played some Dance Dance Revolution MAX2 for the Playstation 2 earlier today. Prior to today, I had 2 Heavy AAAs (Getting through a song with nothing but Perfect steps, plus hitting all the freezes). I picked up another three in an hour and a half of playing today! They were all pretty easy songs, to say nothing of the timing window of any DDR home version (The short story: Compared to the arcade, the window in which you can step and get a Perfect is about as big as my house), but it was still gratifying.

And that’s about it. Until next week…


Nov 06

On the Failure of Diets

Okay, first some qualifiers: As I type this, I am eating leftover buffalo chicken pizza. Such decidedly unhealthy foods are the rule rather than the exception in my food choices, leading some to believe that I am blessed with an ultra-fast metabolism (If there are a small amount of goodies left at work, say a single donut or piece of cake or what-have-you, I’m generally the one that gets tasked to polish it off).

However, while I admit that this was true at one point, it’s really no longer the case. Instead, for over two years now, I’ve tried to do at least some type of exercise four to five days a week. Between the upper body work and the Dance Dance Revolution (Or, more accurately, In the Groove), exercise probably takes up a good 4 to 5 hours of my weekly routine, not to mention little things such as walking up stairs to my workplace rather than taking the elevator. So in short, yes, I am skinny, but I like to think I work pretty damn hard to keep myself that way.

Which brings me to my point. Look around you and you’ll find any number of people trying any number of “diets”, ranging from cutting carbs to thinking thin thoughts. Maybe you’ve even tried some yourself. Chances are, you’ve failed at some point, either in losing weight or keeping it off.

Basically, most diets involve two parts. The first part is losing some excess weight. I actually did this myself, going from 155 pounds down to about 140 between February and August, and holding steady there as of today (An interesting benefit of this was that, while I was a fairly good DDR/ITG player even at 155, I became that much better stamina-wise as I dropped the weight). Before you say “You weren’t fat to begin with!”, consider that my driver’s license generously lists me as 5’4″ tall, and I’m probably a quarter-inch shorter than that in reality. True, I wasn’t “fat” per se, but I did have a bit of a belly on me which I’ve mostly lost (If you believe in that sort of thing, the Body Mass Index scale puts 155lb at 5’4″ as being “overweight”). So believe it or not, I do have some experience here. Anyway, some people fail at this stage. They try to lose too much weight too quickly; to accomplish this, they may attempt to make drastic (And unsustainable) dietary and lifestyle changes, and then they wonder why their changes didn’t yield immediate, unrealistic results, and they give up. It should be noted that my weight loss took place slowly, about a pound a week over five months.

The second part, and the really hard part, is keeping the weight off. See, in my mind, a “diet” can’t be a temporary thing. Some people actually lose their excess weight–and then they immediately revert back to the habits that made them overweight in the first place, stopping their exercise and eating far more calories than they burn. And then they wonder why the didn’t keep the weight off. As I just said, this is the hard part. You have to continue your weight-loss routine, without any real tangible results to show for it–the number doesn’t get smaller, it just doesn’t get bigger either. Worse, continuing the routine tends to be met with awkward conversation and looks–for better or worse, at least in the U.S, exercise and working out is generally seen as something you only do if you’re trying to lose weight, not if you’re trying to maintain weight or generally stay healthy. It’s a very strange manner of thinking, similar to people wondering why those with wealth don’t make more frivolous purchases, because after all, “They can afford it”–never mind the fact that avoiding frivolous purchases was probably a part of how they came to acquire wealth in the first place! Likewise, I’m at a healthy weight (And indeed, my less physical came out great except for the fact that my “good cholesterol” was actually too low) because I exercise and generally try and eat small portions (Though that buffalo chicken pizza proabbly gave me enough calories to last the rest of the week!).

Nov 04 Week 3

Time for another weekly summary.

The big thing is…I finished a new song! Well, the unproduced version anyway. The song is called “Arrowsmash“, and it’s an extremely heavy song about playing Dance Dance Revolution and its ilk. Check it out here, and leave some comments right here in this entry.

The other main thing is that I got past that stupid mission in StarCraft. My strategy was to first build a solid defense for my base, then begin amassing Battlecruisers (If you’re not familiar with StarCraft, Battlecruisers are the most powerful aerial unit I could’ve built at the time. The drawbacks are that they’re expensive, as well as slow to build [Both in building up the tech to be able to do so and in the delay between “Build Battlecruiser” and the time it actually comes out]). Even then, I had to very carefully maneuver the Battlecruisers–long story short, kamikazeing toward my goal would’ve resulted in eight effectively paralyzed and helpless Battlecruisers and a bunch of wasted resources. It took awhile–and I’ll admit it, multiple saves and reloads–but I finally destroyed the Ion Cannon after (Official in-game time; it was probably closer to an hour taking into account the multiple saves and reloads) about 44 minutes. Whew!

Finally, thanks to those of you who texted me wishing me Happy Halloween. I appreciate it!

Oct 28 Week 2

Okay, time for the weekly update.

Website-wise, not much has been going on. This is to be expected, I guess, as I don’t have any revolutionary news this past week, but it’s still a bit concerning. There was a brief spike yesterday for whatever reason, but eh.

In my life, let’s see what’s been going on. You’ll note that my life on the overall is actually rather boring. Sorry if I don’t live up to the rock star lifestyle, but I don’t think I’m necessarily more boring than 99% of people on the Internet. Whether this is inherently good or bad is up to you.

I didn’t quite get all the instrumentation done for the song I’m working on that I wanted to. I’m rediscovering that, whatever the general opinion on my bass skill (I guess it’s prety good, I only minored in it in College after all), I’m really a very limited guitar player, at least for now. I’m working to overcome that, but it’s slow going at the moment.

In the meanwhile, I’ve re-started playing Starcraft a bit more seriously. In the single-player campaign, I’m about back to where I was last time (Five years ago or so), on Terran Mission 10: The Hammer Falls. My problem with beating this mission is that, from what I can tell, it’s a type of “Integrate all the skills you’ve learned to this point to successfully win the mission” level. The problem is that I’m not particularly good at using a variety of strategies–the previous two levels, my methods for victory were “Amass one type of unit and lay waste to stuff” and “Reamass the same unit but add a second unit to deal with the annoying air units that pop up from time to time”, so combining everything I’ve learned doesn’t particularly work here. Oh well.

And that’s pretty much it.


Oct 27

Book Review (!?)- The Beatles: The Biography(?!?!)

Generally speaking, I’m a sucker for band biographies. Oftentimes, reading them opens the door to a world that rivals anything you’d find in the classic movie This Is Spinal Tap (Indeed, I have heard more than once that as a musician or band gains experience with their chosen career, “…Spinal Tap” becomes less and less funny as it becomes more and more real [Think of it as the musician’s equivalent of Dilbert]).

So it was that a month or two ago, I picked up the deadly weapon…err, sorry, book, The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t call it a deadly weapon because of its writing by any means, but rather due to its sheer size–the book is huge, with roughly 850 pages of narrative, another one hundred or so of cites, a U.S. discography, etc. and, oh yeah, some pictures thrown in there for good measure.

The book spends a good hundred to two hundred pages discussing the Fab Four’s early, pre-Beatles lives, focusing in particular on John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Reading about the early days is fun enough–the glorified strip clubs, the dropping out of art school, the unsafe-as-all-get-out stage that, unable to take it anymore, the boys actually deliberately smashed, hoping to force the club owner’s hand into repairing it (It didn’t work–the owner patched it together in the most piecemeal way possible, making it even less safe than it had been prior to the temper tantrum)–but the book really picks up after the Beatles start to hit it big.

Now, understand this. I was born in 1983–in other words, the Beatles had been officially broken up for over 13 years by the time I was born (And reading the book, it’s clear that the band was unofficially “broken up” about six months before the news hit the press, making it closer to 14 years). As such, while I knew the general history of the band–from lovable moptops to the Sargent Pepper’s period and beyond–I (And I suspect a lot of others my age) knew nothing of the behind the scenes stuff that went on during those six-to-seven years. Just a brief list of the highlights:

  • Beatlemania was a very accurate term–indeed, it may have been an understatement. Part of the Beatles’ ultimate disillusionment with playing live was that they could never hear themselves–they were consistently drowned out by throngs of screaming teenage girls.
  • John Lennon, on more than one occasion, would throw up the Nazi salute to shrieking throngs in a foreign country–who would roar their approval.
  • The Beatles unintentionally snubbing Imelda Marcos, then-First Lady of the Philippines, and almost getting themselves killed in the process (More correctly, their management unintentionally-intentionally snubbed her–the Beatles themselves had never even been told of the obligation until it was too late).
  • The drugs, which coincided with–and let’s be honest, probably contributed to–their groundbreaking late-period material
  • The various subsets of their Apple Industries, where the Beatles, Paul in particular, were seemingly determined to hemorrhage money as quickly as they could
  • Yoko Ono’s emergence. Some blame her even today for the Beatles’ breakup; reading the book, my own estimation is that while she accelerated the process, the breakup itself was probably inevitable–John and Paul simply had egos too big to continue to coexist in the same band indefinitely (John’s drug-addled state didn’t help matters).

In short, the book was utterly captivating. I highly recommend it to even the casual Beatles fan despite–indeed, even because of–its length.

Oct 23

I’m a terrible person.

Why am I a horrible person?

Well, I was sitting at lunch yesterday, watching California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speak about the California wildfires. Now, let it be known that I don’t mean to make light of the situation in California–huge numbers of people have been evacuated, one reporter apparently watched his home burn on live TV, and I know several people who live in the general area and sincerely hope they’re all right.

That said, watching the Governator yesterday afternoon, all I could think was, “C’mon, give some evacuation instructions already!”

Oct 21 Week 1

So it’s been a week since my site went live. Things seem to be going well, though obviously there was a dropoff after the initial “Site’s live!” announcement, which is to be expected. Also, actually detecting what the most popular pages are is a bit difficult–LunarPages (By the way, if you decide you want a dot-com-level site from LP, use that link or the one in the footer on every page here–that’s my affiliate link, so I get money if someone signs up through it) gives you tools, but I still have to find some of my own. This is because:

  1. There’s no way to filter out various things–such as the times I’d make a change, view it on the live site, make another change, view it, and so on–that weigh in favor of various pages.
  2. Bandwidth-wise, the songs, being by far the largest files on the site, will be the most bandwidth sucking, even if only a few people download them

Musically, I’ve started working on a new song, mainly pre-recording the drum part for it. The song will be along the lines of “u1tr4-br00t41-m3t41-50n6” in terms of irreverence, but I do take the musical aspect a lot more seriously this time. On the other hand, the lyrics may be even sillier this time out. Hopefully over the next week or so I can complete instrumental tracks, and then record the vocals when I get a house-to-myself moment.

What else. Tonight I’m driving up to the Webster Underground in Hartford to see a band some of my college friends are in, Running with Karma. This is big for a number of reasons–for one, it’ll be the first time I’ve seen any college friends since April of 2006, when I won an iPod with my superior* Dance Dance Revolution skills. For another, I do badly driving to new places. I Google of MapQuest the directions or whatever, and if everything is obvious enough, I’m fine. If something is not obvious, though, and/or I make a wrong decision, things go downhill quickly as I start to panic. I checked out the directions, and these don’t seem too bad from where I’m at–hop on I84 for a bit, get off and onto Route 71 for a few miles, take a right onto Webster St and I’m there. Plus, my aunt and I went there a year or so ago (Well, technically we went to the Webster Theater “proper”, but it’s part of the same complex), so the scene is familiar in my mind.

Oh, and I’ve reinstalled Starcraft on my computer. I first picked it up in 2002 at the behest of one of my friends, but put it down until recently because it’s not the easiest game to play on a laptop. Well, I reinstalled it because, long story short, my laptop is now effectively a small desktop–USB keyboard and mouse and such–which make it quite a bit easier. I’m still re-orienting myself with the game, a process which I expect to be lengthy.

And that’s that! Hopefully you stick around for more writings, music, and life.


*- I’m actually not that good compared to top-tier players. Oh well.

Oct 17

On the Concept of Selling Out

The other day, I was listening to Nitro Game Injection, which is a weekly radio show devoted to covers of video game music. They were doing an interview with pianist Daniel “Kareshi” Brown, and they asked him for this thoughts about the man commonly billed as the Video Game Pianist. Summarized in one sentence, Kareshi’s thoughts were essentially “[The Video Game Pianist], while very technically skilled, seems to be in it for the glory more than the love of video game music”.

The next day, I reflected on Kareshi’s remarks. I don’t personally know The Video Game Pianist, although I have seen him as a part of Video Games Live, a show which I very much enjoyed, so I don’t know how true Kareshi’s assessment really is. But the direction of my thoughts took me to “If he IS in it for the glory, as opposed to love of the music…why is this bad?”

I took my question and decided to expand it further to the concept of “selling out” in the music world. For some reason, it seems that people who listen to music resent the ability of their favorite musicians to make money. For that matter, they resent said musicians ever getting popular. It happens over and over again–a devoted audience clings to a band at the early stages of their career. Eventually, if they’re lucky, the band will attain mainstream popularity–at which point the early devoted audience will invariably, immediately desert them, decrying them as “sellouts”–regardless of whether anything actually changed in the sound of their music.

Part of it, I think, is the thought that the major record labels are somehow “the bad guys”, mega-corporations concerned with making money above all else, including the welfare of the artists. True as this may be, it ignores the history of music and its creation and performance. Picture this: Your humble site administrator/writer/musician gets a job working for Bill Gates. My job description? Essentially, write music just for Mr. Gates, eight hours a day, five days a week. The worst kind of selling out on my part and the worst corruption of music on the part of Mr. Gates? Before you answer, consider that Johann Sebastian Bach, considered one of the greatest composers in history, worked under very similar conditions for a part of his life, for the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and later for Prince Leopold–music was, literally, his job, and that didn’t seem to stop him from producing great works. And amusingly, sites like Tailored Music are exploring this ancient idea in a 21st century way.

But back to my point. The prevailing attitude today as regards music and money is that they must be mutually exclusive. Furthermore, this attitude must have manifested itself only recently; in times past, as in Bach’s age, this was hardly the case–music-for-payment was practically expected. So what changed? And why is the idea of musicians making money from their work suddenly this taboo concept?

Thoughts? Comments? Exclamations of righteous indignation?

Oct 14

DVD Burning Weirdness

So awhile back I completed a speed run of the NES game Astyanax. I let it sit on my DVD recorder for a bit, and then tried to get it from the recorder’s hard drive onto a DVD. Weirdness then commenced.

On my first attempt, I burned the run, put the DVD into my computer….then realized that I hadn’t finalized the DVD. Oops. Out of the computer and back into the recorder the DVD went and I took care of that step. Out of the recorder and back into my computer…and what the heck happened to my run?!

There was a weird white line at the left edge of the visual area, almost denoting where the recording began. Even stranger, though, was that the recording as a whole had been moved up some, and on the bottom was a row of what appeared to be memory addresses from the game. Well, clearly, this wouldn’t do. Thinking maybe it was somehow due to my forgetting-to-finalize snafu, I went and made a second copy of the disc, following the proper procedure. The line was gone, but the memory addresses remained.

The strange thing is that I can put the disc in the recorder and it’ll play fine–no memory addresses displaying. The same goes for when I put the disc into another DVD player and watch it on another TV–it plays just like it should. The memory address problem only comes up when I watch the disc on my computer. Further, while it’s hard to tell (Because the video quality is awful), this playthrough of the game (Which is slower than mine by a good amount, if you’re curious) suggests that I’m not the only one with this problem–note the row of white below the LF/SP section.

I guess the next step is letting the administration of SDA know about this and asking if there’s anything that can be done about it.

Oct 07 is live!

Welcome! This is officially my first post at my fancy new website, which, as you can see, is called Feel free to have a look around. You can get started by checking out the sidebar, where you can find out about the site, or the person who runs it. You can also check out some of my music from years gone by, e-mail me, or if you have some spare cash, donate to me. I’ll be regularly updating the site, if not with new music, then at least with news from my day-to-day life.

By the way, if you see any issues with the site, feel free to let me know (Also let me know what browser you use). I already fixed one issue where the footer didn’t want to display properly in IE6, and managed to fix the search bar alignment issue that had been nagging me at the same time, which is a plus.