Category: Music

Things are heating up

Today marks the first day of a quite sudden and quite severe spike in temperatures, as we’re in for 90+ degree heat for the next days, including one day above 100 degrees. Lack of central air as an amenity in housing in this part of the country normally isn’t a problem, except for when it is. Luckily I have my portable unit deployed and running, so at least the living room is staying livable.

Good thing too, as I am extremely behind on work at the moment and find myself in the position of needing to spend all weekend getting caught up on bug squashing. Imagine this – I have a team of four developers; one of which is busy conducting performance testing for the current release, while the other three were reassigned by the VP of software delivery to participate in regression testing as ‘contractors’ for the QA team to help speed those guys up. So who’s left to fix bugs? Well… uh, nobody. So in other words, I fit that in between meetings and emails and writing annual reviews and tearing various different teams in the building new assholes for putting on a circus act while we’re trying to get some serious business done.


What’s also fun is playing bass, which I had officially taken up as my quarantine hobby while others were busy learning how to make sourdough bread. After about four months of serious practice, close to 80 hours logged in Rocksmith, and once-a-week lessons at the local music guild, I’m seeing some pretty positive results. I’ve progressed to the point where if I set aside an hour or so on Rocksmith, I can bang out simpler songs start-to-finish, and I can usually get the structure (if not the nuance) of moderate-difficulty songs right as well. Then there’s Red Barchetta by Rush, which I’ve been working on for at least three months…

Here’s the full song:

And the bass part in isolation:

In contrast to some of the other things I’ve worked on, this is less of a bass line and more of a melange of uniquely tricky phrases that all need to be glued together to form the entire piece. Part of what’s taken so long to learn this is actually just that I’m an idiot who’s focused on learning to run before figuring out how to crawl, otherwise why would I be trying to learn Rush songs four months into this endeavor? So the rate of progress has actually been gated by an overall lack of experience with the instrument, and the fact that I’m still seeing a lot of things for the very first time.

Rocksmith has been a fairly effective method of ramping up though, and although I didn’t really truly fulfill their 60-day challenge of an hour a day for… you guessed it, 60 days, it was a hell of a lot faster than sitting there with a method book playing whole notes and quarter notes would have been. The ability to dial in the difficulty (essentially taking notes off the chart and adjusting the speed until you’re able to follow along) is great for getting the “easy” rendition of a song down, then you start practicing individual passages and gradually increase the difficulty until you’re playing the full thing at full speed. One thing I’m finding more recently is that playing through a song once at about 30% difficulty is good for learning the feel of the song, but then I need to jump straight to 100% difficulty because how you locate things on the fretboard is very much based on context, and decisions need to be made about playing an C on the seventh fret of the E string versus the same C (albeit with slightly different intonation) on the third fret of the A string. So the speed slider is actually the difficulty slider for me, and I play things slowly until I’ve figured them out.

One thing of note is that while I haven’t devolved into full on guitar-collecting as it seems serious players do, I have already bought a second bass to park at the office. So to add to the Yamaha TRBX 505 that I daily drive at home, I’ll have a TRBX 174 at work to sneak in a few minutes here and there on days that I commute in. The choice of going to the Yamaha well twice is mostly based around the fact that I had a Yamaha clarinet in high school and it played and sounded great. Yamaha basses tend to grade out favorably in reviews for being good bang-for-buck choices, and my experience so far has more or less been consistent with that. A Fender jazz bass seems like a likely next step, although the Sugi NB4 is a rather striking option, even if it is $4000…

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Six Weeks of Kicking Ass

After finals wrap up, I go straight home for an Opeth concert on the 8th of May, then fly out to Las Vegas on the 14th for some much-needed R&R. Although today is the last day of spring break, I really only had about 2 days out of 11 where I truly did nothing – the rest were spent getting up at 6am, working, and occasionally doing random stuff until obscenely late hours.

In the meantime, I have six weeks left of school. There is plenty to work on, and with my Playstation 3 resting comfortably back at home there is plenty of time to do everything. I’m going to start hitting the gym much harder over the next few weeks and try to push myself down as close to 220 as possible for the trip to Vegas. Right now I’m checking in at around 236-238, which itself is 10 pounds lighter than where I was at the beginning of the semester. Funny story, apparently the scale I bought last year to start tracking my weight is no good. It’s one of those digital scales with no way to calibrate, and it’s reading 8-15 pounds lighter than every other scale I’ve set foot on. I was certainly able to track weight loss with it, but the difference means that at the start of 2008 I may have weighed as much as 310 pounds. Still, there is a 70 pound difference between then and now, I’ve lost six inches off my waist, and I’ve gone from XXL shirts being nearly too small down to XL being about 5 pounds away from a perfect fit.

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The State of the Site, pt. II

I learned how to change a toilet seat today.

Now before everybody starts jumping to conclusions about why this took place, let me set the record straight: I did not race to the bathroom in a diarrhea-induced panic and blast humanity all over the old toilet seat. It wasn’t anywhere near that exciting – one of the bolts snapped for some reason, leaving me with a seat swinging around on one bolt. No big deal, replacement seats were $10 at Home Depot, problem solved.

I’ve been sleepwalking through the day, thanks to being awakened at about 830 this morning. That includes the escapade with the toilet seat, dinner with the folks, a few hours cleaning up the storage drive on my PC, etc. It wasn’t anything in particular that woke me up, but I suspect the sun being out and shining into the room had something to do with that. I’m going to have to hang some curtains I think; getting four hours of sleep on a Saturday is criminal (and having it happen several Saturdays in a row as it has to me is even worse).

I had some issues with the cable after moving everything in here last night – apparently the signal coming into the cable outlet in the bedroom is significantly weaker than the one going into the living room. Running the cable box and the modem through the bedroom outlet resulted in the cable box not being able to pull down the programming schedule from the provider, even though pulling down a list of channel names and displaying the correct time was no issue. So now the modem is hooked back up out in the living room and everything works fine. Cox wants $45 to send a technician out within the next week or two to ramp up the signal in the bedroom – screw that.

Actually, it’s kind of funny – at work all we charge for trouble tickets is the price of any parts used, and we try to adhere to a 24 hour response time. Here Cox is charging me $45 just to roll the truck sometime in the not-so-immediate future. No thanks, I’ll work this one out on my own.

I’ll post some tidbits about some other crap here in a day or so.

And on a side note… what’s the deal with MTV advertising hip-hop ringtones during Headbanger’s Ball? What am I ever going to want with a “Throw Some D’s” ringtone?

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Some Kind of Monster

I saw the Metallica documentary over the weekend. I’ve been led to four conclusions:

1) James Hetfield is a whiny girl who’s always in a foul mood and feels like nothing he does is good enough.
2) Jason Newsted is an ass for quitting the band and then trying to weasel his way back in after finding out they were playing gigs again.
3) Lars Ulrich is just an annoying prick.
4) They’re all clowns for paying a “group therapist” 40 grand a month to help them kiss and make up.

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