Thursday, January 24, 2008

Everythings's Going Indie!

Everything’s Going Indie

I recently downloaded a program to help me keep track of contacts I make via amateur radio. I had skimmed over all the ones that were professionally done, too pricey, and even most of the shareware ones, I’m not shy about it, I’m cheap. While not too many things are like the proverbial needle in the haystack on the internet these days, free ham radio software for the Mac is a pretty rarefied territory.

At any rate, I found one, written by a fellow ham in Germany to take care of his own needs and subsequently released to the public for free. I got it set up on my computer, waded through some instructions in Deutch (Thanks to Babelfish) and found that once I got used to it, I pretty much liked it. Now, here’s the kicker…after a little use I thought that a slight change to a couple of the entry fields would make things a lot easier. So I posted the suggestion on the guy’s forum and the very next day he posted that he would make the changes next time he posted a revision!

This is what’s really exciting about the whole situation. A software user gave input directly to the programmer about how to make the product better and after one short interaction it’s in the works. Try that with Microsoft!!!

With the way things are developing and the rate at which technology trickles down, there are a lot of things available to the man-or-woman-on-the-street these days that were totally unreachable just a few short years ago. For instance, when I was finishing up college, we were just installing digital work stations in the recording studios. This stuff was ridiculously expensive, hard to use, and totally out of reach for anyone without a huge budget. Nowadays, half the kids on my block have Pro-Tools running on their laptops and are making fairly sophisticated recordings of their bands, all by themselves. For what it would have cost them five years ago to go into a studio and record a half dozen songs, they can get them selves set up with the tools to do it themselves and work at their leisure.

Software and music production are just the tip of the iceberg. Off the top of my head I have friends who are getting into screen printing, metal working, the contents of this website are a testament to how popular self publishing has gotten, the possibilities abound.

If you’ve been secretly yearning to get in to something, but thought that only people with a lot more resources than you could play, think again. If fourteen year old kids can make their own records, and guys can get into blacksmithing on a recreational basis, there’s a good chance your aspirations and far flung fantasies are closer to your reach than you thought.

Friday, January 18, 2008


The other night I was for some reason or other feeling like I wanted to get into a fight. Not with anyone in particular, I was just really wanting to take out all my pent up anxiety on some deserving enemy with a large sword or maybe a chain mace. The battle cry was actually ringing in my ears, and I don’t mean the utterance of some haughty nobleman on the back of his horse, “Onward! For the king!” I mean a scary sound, an I’m-coming-over-there-to-KILL-you sound that would take a lot of energy to make and encourage anyone fighting with me to fight harder. A sound that would make the guy I’m after think that maybe fighting me wasn’t such a good idea.

Thinking all this reminded me of my college buddy Marty, who watches Braveheart once a year, religiously. If you’re not familiar it’s about the Scottish hero William Wallace who gathered a rag-tag band that eventually had some success beating back the British. But, while I am rather dashing in a kilt, I don’t currently own a sword, and British oppression isn’t really such an issue in my neighborhood. So I took a deep breath, during which the hordes of sweaty combatants fled my imagination and I sent him a text message.

“Seen Braveheart yet this year?”

“Yes, actually”

“It’s been a while for me… Nothing like a good battle cry and mooning your enemy to really make you feel like a man.”

And I went back in the house to do the dishes.

This is my situation. My enemies can’t be killed. My enemies are piles of dishes and tax forms and the poorly crafted door handles on my truck. Rude store clerks and snippy clients assail me daily and yet never once am I provided with the opportunity to slug somebody. Most of the time I even refrain from speaking my mind. I have to live and work around here after all and I already have trouble without being known as the guy who spits insults at everyone and occasionally sounds like Groundskeeper Willy.

Here I stand, still a young man, strong and fit, ready for battle but completely untrained. I was built from the ground up to hunt and fight and kill, to defend my home from the offending hordes. And with all that at my disposal I’m reduced to making sure I get my social security number right on my W-9 form so that I don’t get sent a bunch more paperwork.

I’ve always had these feelings. All my life I wondered why I my inner feelings are at odds with what is required of me: be nice, do your job, don’t offend, don’t respond to that bully. Modern society requires that I suppress what comes naturally, leaps to the surface actually. Instead of fighting for the honor of the maiden, I’d better just do the dishes and try not to irritate anybody.

These ideas aren’t very well formed and not entirely my own. I was given a book last year called “Wild At Heart” that expresses far more elegantly the disparity between male instinct and societal pressure. It explained to me the feelings I had always struggled with and showed me how to be a man if a modern world without being a wimp. I don’t ever read books that are given to me, and rarely advise anyone else about what they should read. But this one’s an exception. If you’re wondering where all the adventure is, the battles, the quests and challenges, you ought to read it.

That’s probably quite enough about swords and fighting and whatnot, I likely shouldn’t write about such things too often. If you happen to witness any injustices that seem to require some work with a sword though, send me an e-mail. I’ll grab my kilt and be right over.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Working for the Thrill of it

I got asked recently if it was worth it to toil away at a lot of these lousy gigs that I've been getting. The truth is, it really is. Even a bad day at a show is better than a good day hanging drywall. But there is one thing that makes it all worth it: festival stages.

There's nothing like walking on to a stage that's already set, with a good size sound system already set up (by others). There's the smell of beer and smoke and sweaty happy people in the air. Backstage it's teeming with band members, glad to be out of their vans and swapping stories.

And over on one side is the monitor mix, usually the size of a couch and worth more than my house. A few words are exchanged with the monitor mixer on the crew and then he steps aside. It's like getting handed the keys to the General lee. You walk up to a machine that most people can hardly look at without getting confused and proceed to set up individually tailored mixes for each of your performers.

A few minutes later you're ready to go and they're on. The first few moments are spent paying attention to the performers in case they need any adjustments. After things start to look stable you can relax a little and enjoy the feeling of standing less than twenty feet behind sixty kilowatts worth of sub-woofers. Eventuallly the performance ends and once the band is struck you can lounge around and enjoy the atmosphere, talk to the local crew, swap stories with the touring acts. Right before you depart there's the pleasure of looking back out past the stage at the thousands of happy concert goers.

That's what makes it worth slogging through hundreds of awful gigs in smelly dark venues for bands of questionable talent.

Pining Away

Well, it’s not quite spring yet, but my thoughts are turning to love. Mostly what a gawdawful mess it is. So I’m writing to any young folks who care to hear the advise of experience and avoid some heartache.

So, having just polished off the Harry Potter book in which he and Ginny finally get together, it reminded me so much of my own experience, which I’m sure parallels a lot of peoples’. Girl likes guy but is too shy to say anything, meanwhile, guy likes girl he can’t possibly get and nobody’s happy. Eventually guy starts to like girl but girl is inextricably involved with someone and still, nobody’s happy. Finally, at long last the two manage to get it together for a short period of time, but then something wrecks it and after the ever so brief period of happiness, nobody’s happy again.

I guess it may be an unavoidable part of high school life to have to go through all the longing and inaction, but it seems so unnecessary. It seems like the standard practice is to conceal any trace of one’s true feelings and mope around My own experience in high school wasn’t even as gratifying as Harry’s, no joy for this guy. I spent the entire six years of junior high and high school pining away for girls who would never like me, only to find out long after the fact that there were not one, not two, but at least three girls who would have been more than happy to be my girlfriend.

I spent what was then a third of my short life banging my head against the wall, in misery because I couldn’t get the babe. Never mind that if I had actually managed to date one of these unattainable girls it would have fallen apart immediately either due to lack of compatibility with their elevated social circles, but much more likely because I so idolized them that there was no possible way they could live up to my expectations. Meanwhile there were girls that were friends with my friends, liked what I liked, and really just wanted my arm around them.

So here’s the long delayed advise in a nutshell. For starters, if you’re pining away for someone higher up the food chain, just ask her out already! In rare instances it actually works out so there’s hope for you fans of Beauty and the Geek. And if it doesn’t work out, you may have to endure a day or two of ridicule, but at least you can stop yourself short of developing a full scale stalking complex. There’s not a girl in the world that doesn’t find that creepy and it’s no fun for your guy friends to have to watch that either fellas.

Now, once you’ve popped the question and either weathered the short lived derision of your peers (let’s face it, we’re talking chance in a million on that Beauty and the Geek scenario) take a look around and see who’s making eyes at you. Chances are there’s somebody who’d be thrilled to be with you and really, wouldn’t it be better to have someone on your arm who’s a little less attractive but loves you to bits than some hottie that you have to constantly worry about leaving you?

There it is folks, take it or leave it. I’m not saying that I would have taken this advice had somebody given it to me when I was thirteen, but then again, maybe I would have and could have enjoyed my love life during that period instead of having to console myself with being