Odds and Ends

September 18, 2014

iOS 8. It took over twelve hours to download. Maybe that’s why Apple called it the biggest release ever?

Changed my pedalboard. Where should the volume pedal go? Start? Middle? End? I picked the middle. After the drives and before the delays. Like this guy.

How much power does an Alpha Dog distortion pedal draw? A measly 5ma.

Photokina announced a lot of cameras this week. I like this one: the essence of photography.

Everything I wanted to know about cleaning car windows. And then some.

I’m 57. I was born in 57. And this guitar is also 57. Significant right?

I learned all about gravel driveways last week.

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Name Your Fears

September 17, 2014

Most of our fears are imaginary.

We don’t know what comes next, so we make projections about the future. And in our imaginations, the potential for catastrophe is alarmingly high.

But we’re not actually scared of the experience. We’re scared of the unknown: the vague, monster-shaped outline in our imagination.

Take Away Its Power

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Paperless

September 15, 2014

scansnap

After 57 years on the planet, I decided to finally take the plunge and go paperless. Okay. Mostly paperless.

Lorraine and I receive thousands of pages of documents each year. Financial statements, invoices, receipts and other documents that often fall into the important to keep category.

Over the past few years, a number of our providers switched over to electronic statements. And trying to keep a decent filing system on both electronic and paper media was proving to be quite challenging and frustrating.

I decided to make a change and get better organized.

I use three tools: the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i scanner, Evernote and my iMac. The Fujitsu scanner, which is amazing by the way, handles the incoming paper. It is configured to send the scanned image in PDF form directly to Evernote. Within Evernote, I have a local notebook called “File Cabinet”. Everything I scan goes into the File Cabinet. I give the document a title and a date and, almost instantly, I have a well organized virtual filing cabinet. Other electronic documents that are already digitized get added to Evernote. And, because of Evernote Premium, I have OCR against all of the documents which allows me to issue very sophisticated searches by keywords.

I processed most of the papers by creating three stacks.

Stack one: papers I do not need to keep. Not surprisingly, we were holding on to a lot of papers that we really did not need to keep. I estimate that well over 70 percent of the paper documents we receive can be shredded and recycled.

Stack two: scan and toss. These are the papers that we want to store in digital form only. We do not need a physical copy. This seems to be about 20% of the papers.

Stack three: scan and keep. These are important papers that we scan and hold. Things like signed contracts. And this represents a very small percentage of the total. Let’s say about 5%

I am about two thirds of the way through all of our current papers. The process has been fast and quite liberating. The electronic copies are easy to store and easy to find. Much easier than flipping through a huge, two-drawer filing cabinet. And we have a lot less physical paper occupying our lives.

That said, we have banker boxes full of paper files dating back well over three decades. My plan is to tackle one box a month. In a couple of years, we will have completed the move to a (mostly) paperless home.

This post on going paperless was very helpful to me. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get this system working.

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Open Road

September 14, 2014

I was finally able to use our new driveway today. Funny how you miss certain conveniences in life. Like walking out into your garage and driving away in your car.

I went out and took a few more shots of the new drive. It is so different from what we had before. Hope it holds up.

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

Gravel Drive

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Gravel Doctor After

September 12, 2014

More work will take place on the drive today. When finished, we won’t be able to drive on the surface for a couple of days so I will be stranded at home. 300 tons or so of gravel has been dropped. Surprised by the smooth surface. It is hard for me to tell that it is gravel. It feels like a paved surface.

Gravel 4

Gravel 3

Gravel 2

Gravel 1

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The Gravel Doctor

September 11, 2014

gravel1

The Gravel Doctor is in the house. And here is why. Our drive, about 900 feet long, is covered in vegetation.

gravel4

gravel5

And several areas have washed out completely. The gravel you see below is not on our driveway. It is off to the side of what remains of our driveway.

gravel6

This is a shot of the drive as the team started working on the remediation.

gravel3

And this is what it is looking like as they prepare the drive for the new gravel.

gravel2

Today we will receive somewhere in excess of 300 tons of gravel. The after shots will be forthcoming. I expect to see a little bit of a difference in the drive.

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Will Robots Replace Executives?

September 11, 2014

There is no organization that shouldn’t be thinking about leveraging these approaches, because either you do — in which case you’ll probably surpass the competition — or somebody else will. And by the time the competition has learned to leverage data really effectively, it’s probably going to be too late for you to try to catch up. Your competitors will be on the exponential path, and you’ll still be on that linear path.

Let me give you an example. Google announced last month that it had just completed mapping the exact location of every business, every household, and every street number in the entirety of France. You’d think it would have needed to send a team of 100 people out to each suburb and district to go around with a GPS and that the whole thing would take maybe a year, right? In fact, it took Google one hour.

Now, how did the company do that? Rather than programming a computer yourself to do something, with machine learning you give it some examples and it kind of figures out the rest. So Google took its street-view database — hundreds of millions of images — and had somebody manually go through a few hundred and circle the street numbers in them. Then Google fed that to a machine-learning algorithm and said, “You figure out what’s unique about those circled things, find them in the other 100 million images, and then read the numbers that you find.” That’s what took one hour. So when you switch from a traditional to a machine-learning way of doing things, you increase productivity and scalability by so many orders of magnitude that the nature of the challenges your organization faces totally changes.

The whole article is well worth a read but that part on Google was downright frightening.

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Letting Go

September 10, 2014

mixmasters

Tracking for the New World project began on May 27, 2013. The mix masters were posted for the mastering engineer Monday and Tuesday of this week. The proof is right there. Right on my Google Drive. I’ve shared that drive with the mastering engineer.

The mixes are finished.

We spent several hundred hours on the project tracking, editing and mixing over the past 15 months. And, after 5 rounds of mix release candidates, a few nagging questions began to emerge:

How do you know when a mix is finished? When can you let a project go?

Most of the heavy lifting on a recording project occurs through the editing process. It is in that stage of the recording process that I try to eliminate all of the issues in the tracks. With the New World project I had the benefit of six sets of ears which really helped to nail down all of the trouble spots. That can take time as some issues get resolved only for new ones to appear. With each iteration, the mixes were sounding better and better.

Set a deadline

When a mix gets far enough along, it is important to set a deadline. By putting a specific deadline in place, it really confirms that the songs are ready to go and, if they aren’t, it becomes obvious in the final sign-off reviews and a new deadline will get struck.

Get feedback

I provided the team with mix release candidates very early in the process. The first round mix release candidates were really little more than rough dubs. At this early stage, I focus my efforts on track processing over track mixing. Why? Because I know that I will get lots of feedback on issues related to editing and levels during the first round. It gives me a far better sense of where to take the mix once I get feedback from the team early in the mixing process.

Most songs will settle in after two or three mix release candidates. And a few will prove to be a bit more challenging.

Keep things simple

Modern audio workstations really provide far too many options and, if you are not careful, you can become too distracted with trying to find that perfect compressor or effect. I tend to limit myself to a set of core tools — usually a few compressors and an EQ. I also keep a core set of effects that I use for delays, reverbs and filters. We were looking for authentic, dynamic and musical sounds for this project and not highly processed, compressed sounds. If you want an open, musical sound, you do not need to compress the life out of the tracks and the main buss.

Know yourself

There are so many possible techniques and methods in modern mixing. At this stage I no longer put as much emphasis on tools and techniques as a proxy for experience. It takes time to develop the skills to deliver a great sounding mix. It is also obvious when a track has reached that threshold from average sounding to exceptional sounding. There may still be a few tweaks to get everyone happy with a mix but if things aren’t sounding great by then, a few tweaks will really not matter. Mixing is an art form and it is a technical process. Learn the mechanics well to focus on the art.

I listened to the mix masters one last time before sending them out to George. And they sound great. It may have taken several hundred hours of hard work to get them to this stage but there is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when a team has really pushed hard and stretched and achieved an excellent outcome.

We should get the mastered tracks back before the end of September. I am so looking forward to hearing the final product.

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