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    2014 - 07.15

    Here’s a tune I’ve been listening to a lot lately: “C130″ by the band Brownout.

    Seems these guys were trying to make something that sounds as big as a C-130 Hercules aircraft, shown here fighting forest fires.  And I’d say they succeeded, in a genre you could justifiably call Cinematic Funk.  It’s pretty huge.

    c-130-2

    I like to play trumpet and it sounds like this

    2014 - 06.28

    So I’m in a band and it’s called “100% Juice” and I think it’s preaaatty cool.  If you like improvised, funky music or electrified horns, I think this is worth your listening time.  I will post more as we create more.

    So far there are 5 tracks up on our Soundcloud although we’ve been playing for over a year now.  We’re selective like that?  The track “Freeze Pop” was recorded using a multi-track interface, the Tascam US-2000.  I’m quite jazzed about the prospects of using this thing to make progressively better and better recordings of the music we’ve been making.

    I will also mention here that if you REALLY like it, there is a continuously rotating directory which hosts our latest and greatest jams in long form, unabridged format, accessible as zip files.  These are also the high-fidelity, sonically-best way of listening to us.  You will hear a clear difference versus the streaming version.  These can be found here:

    http://www.microcosmologist.com/juice/

    Reason Synchronous Video Tutorial

    2014 - 06.18

    I made this video so I may as well post it here… it’s a video tutorial on using the Propellerhead Rack Extension “Synchronous” in Reason 7.1 to make glitch percussion.  If you know what some or most of that sentence means, definitely check this out:

     

    I also made a shorter version, since this video was created for a contest, and (naturally) AFTER I made the above one, I figured out there was a 5 minute time restriction.  The short version is here.

     

    Tastes as good as it looks

    2014 - 06.14

    I dig this beer.  With the Instamatic camera on the label.

    WP_20140605_22_24_33_Pro

    Saturday Brunch with The New Mastersounds

    2014 - 04.28

    The New Mastersounds at International Fest in Houston TX.  World Music... well they are from Europe I guess!

    Simon at IF“At this point we’re just making shit up.  I don’t even know what song we were playing there,” jokes Simon Allen from behind the drums as they wrap up an impromptu reggae detour lasting a couple minutes or so.  Midway through Simon had broken into what I’d describe as a dancehall or Caribbean type beat which is something I’ve never heard them do.  Having seen this band enough times to lose count, it was one of the more interesting moments in the show for me.  Rushing out the door to get there, I had debated bringing along my Zoom H4 audio recorder to tape the show but decided not to at the last second since I was pressed for time and wasn’t sure where the windscreen was.  Maybe about 3 tunes in I came to regret that decision; despite my familiarity with their catalog, the brits had again managed to step outside my expectations and bust out some new tricks.

    International Fest in Houston was this weekend and as Eddie noted toward the end of their performance, the first time that The New Mastersounds had visited “H-Town” as an audience member instructed them to call it.  They took a certain pleasure intoning this moniker in the most deliberately anglicized accent they could muster.  Eddie was sporting an off-white suit and Pete (who was announced in a nasal-sounding voice as “Peter” at all times during the show) wore a Brooklyn Bowl shirt, which I thought was pretty cool.  Weather was humid and what you’d call “pretty warm” here in Texas.  Thrice the band saw fit to comment on how hot they thought it was even though as their introducing stage manger explained, “this isn’t even the real heat yet.”

    It was a smooth Mastersounds.  Very much a groovy, jazz-in-the-park style performance, which I enjoyed.  There were two things of particular interest in the set: one, where a solo Eddie Roberts on guitar began their tune “Thermal Bad” stretching in a delicate, bare setting all the way until the B section arrived.  Typically this is a super rocking number, so it was intriguing to hear them give a wholly different take on it.  And sure, they took it there eventually.   But this show wasn’t about the meltdown, it was far more focused on the slow builds and the clear, thoughtful solo, delivered to an audience who had recently finished up a casual afternoon brunch and drank that Saturday coffee as I had.

    Joe Tatton on the keys took it into dreamy, full-on Mister-Rogers-Feeds-The-Fish Mode on the rhodes, drifting our minds off into the sky with those delays and open spaces in his phrasing.  There were some bursts of that dexterity he likes to keep hidden in reserve, and some eyebrow-tilting jaunts into the ‘out’ keys, but for the most part, he kept the dial locked on Spacey.  Which is perfectly fine by me since he doubtlessly excels in that realm.  Similarly, Eddie Roberts showed us in a few brief flourishes that “yeah, I could burn it down if I really wanted to, but hey it’s just our first date here, Houston, and I wanna take it nice and easy you know?  Make it special?”

    The second point of interest was a very gentle and chilled version of “Summercamp.”  The original tune is already laid back as-is, but this live version subtracted the driving percussion during the melody, instead seeing Simon mirroring its rhythm with light taps on the cymbals.  For me this was the coolest part of the show since Summercamp is one of my favorite joints off their most recent two albums and two, it’s always neat to see musicians taking a familiar song and going new directions with it.  Hopefully they return to Houston sooner than later…

    Dat Suit

    First Infrared Timelapse Video

    2014 - 03.30

    So I actually made this a long time ago but am just now getting around to posting it.  It’s a short video of 4 timelapses that I shot on my infrared-converted Canon XTi.  One really important trick which allowed me to do this easily was told to me by the guy who did the conversion for me: take a photo of green leaves or grass, preferrably blurred out.  Then use that image as the source for a custom white balance.  Now if you take a photo using that custom white balance, it looks exactly as you see in the video!  No processing required, no color shifting.  Now that is a convenient tip!

    First IR Timelapse from Microcosmologist on Vimeo.

    There’s also a color night sky timelapse from the T3i in there, shot on the night I proposed to my wife.  Obviously pretty special to me!  The sky looks really awesome in that IR landscape shot.  I want to do some more timelapses like this with moving clouds since the sky shows up so contrasty and dark in IR.

    Primo Vino Art: Fetzer Crimson

    2014 - 03.19

    IMG_2482 v2

    Pacifc Coast Extension: Progress Pics Pt.2

    2014 - 03.05

    So it’s been a while since I posted an update on my model railroading progress. I’ve been dabbling with a host of side projects but the two main accomplishments of the last few months have been 1. the organization of my workbench and 2. the completion of my staging area.

    RR workbenchIt can be hard to motivate yourself to put work into the space where you do your work, rather than devoting that time into actual projects themselves. But my overly-cluttered railroad workbench had reached an overpopulation of ridiculous proportions. I don’t have any “before” images to provide for contrast because taking a photo of how it used to be would be an embarassment. At Home Depot I found one of these 30-drawer organizers meant for screws and washers and that has worked out positively brilliant for the bulk of my small objects which need to be kept in sensible order. It’s been one of those upgrades to your work situation that makes you say to yourself “geez, why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?! I’ve been languishing in the dark ages and this thing only cost me $20!”

    The desk itself is fairly primitive; constructed of spare 2×4 segments left over from benchwork construction and half of a cheap ikea desk surface I sawed in half. There’s a power strip screwed into the base which provides juice to lamps and the soldering iron. Sitting on the tabletop is a stack of white paper which I use to keep greases/glues off the actual green desk surface and a spare piece of foam for setting down delicate engines while I work on them. It’s nothing impressive but it’s been functional. I guess the main takeaway here is that maaan, a little organization sure goes a long way to making life easier.

    The second, more exciting bit of progress I’ve made is to complete the staging yard–which is a short sentence to say but a lot of work to accomplish. Laying track is time consuming work when you want it to operate well. I added more work by deciding to have the whole yard hooked up to an autoreverser. It’s an “AR1″ from Tony’s Train Exchange which monitors its (electrically isolated) track section thousands of times per second to see if there’s a short circuit compared to the main. If it detects one, it flips the polarity on its track to match, and does it so fast that the DCC system can’t detect that a short ever happened. It’s actually a pretty impressive little piece of technology if you stop and think about what it’s doing. The practical function here is to allow trains to enter the yard from either direction and never short anything, which allows me to turn long trains around. Very handy indeed! I chose the AR1 model specifically because it draws power from the track and therefore doesn’t need an independent power supply. It also has the capability to use the polarity flip to trigger a switch machine. So far I have zero switch machines on my layout but if I decide to add some in the future I could use that functionality.

    Staging Yard West End

    Speaking of switch machines, I installed a whole bunch of Caboose Industries ground throws and I learned something I wasn’t expecting; when using curved turnouts, you need to make sure that your passenger cars or autoracks don’t smash into the throw! If you position it even somewhat close to the track, it’s almost surely going to cause a problem. I ended up having my throws mounted all the way at the end of each switch throwbar. And it turned out that there was one curved turnout with a parallel curved track next to it which had zero possible placements where a throw wouldn’t cause crashes. I didn’t even think of this when I was coming up with the track plans! Fortunately my local hobby shop had a cheap mechanical solution which I could mount underneath the layout. It’s a Rix hand operated throw which doesn’t have any spring or tensioner in it so I’ll need to keep an eye on it if I use it repeatedly, but I think it ought to work well enough for that particular track.

    And speaking of underneath the layout, I was also surprised at the amount of work it took to add wire drops from each section of track and make sure everything was getting powered. Long stretches of flex track are pretty forgiving when it comes to conducting the signal but add in a bunch of switches and wow, all sorts of connection issues start appearing, even though I was using brand new, snug rail joiners. I had to go back an add more connections once I thought I was done. Now that it’s all complete though, it sure is nice!! I can have several long trains all on the tracks at the same time and choose which ones I want to take out and run, which is the whole strength of DCC afterall. It’s a milestone to now have a yard that allows me to take greater advantage of this.

    Staging Yard East end

    Primo Vino Art: Quotation

    2014 - 02.12

    Back with another cool wine bottle.  These things go on forever.  Just like the intricate swirls in this design, or the stars inside a galaxy.

    IMG_2489 v2

    Bombay Pizza

    2014 - 01.22

    There’s a place downtown Houston called Bombay Pizza Company and they serve Indian themed pizzas with everything you might expect.  Shown here is Tandoori Chicken, Onion, & Spinach.  I prefer basil instead of Spinach but this was still very flavorful.  Best part about the place is the super duper thin sesame seed crust.  It’s real crunchy around the edge as well.

     

    Tandoori Chicken, Onion, & Spinach