Rocking The Empire Ears

Making far more use of in-ear systems for monitoring. I suspect the days of playing live with wedges on stage will be behind me for the most part. Most of my playing will be on silent stages. Earphones become significantly more important in this context.

I had a pair of Shure SE425 earphones. They were okay. Not great. Just okay. For me. I decided it was time to update the earphones. I went wandering about the web and came across a number of great options.

Expensive though. Professional quality earphones for musicians are not cheap. I opted to stay with universals. I am not all that keen on the custom units. Just a personal preference. I can get pretty close to a custom fit with a decent pair of silicon universals.

I landed on the Empire Ears ESR Universals. A bit pricey at around $1,100 CAD although positioned at the mid-tier pricing level for this class of technology. You could easily spend two or three thousand on a pair.

I’ve been breaking them in. Spent most of last week playing with them on and I really love the sound. Very linear. Which is what I am used to hearing through studio monitors and studio headphones. These are not the earphones for you if you are looking for some hyped bass, strong midrange or sizzling highs.

As a musician, I prefer earphones that convey a realistic sound field. These ones really rock!

Empire describes them this way:

The ESR features a powerful 4-way synX crossover network with 3 proprietary drivers to reproduce the sonic transparency and critical details needed for mixing and mastering.

The ESR is Empire’s flattest in-ear monitor and it delivers uncompromising dynamics, ultra-fast transient response, and wide dispersion for use in studios and on stage.

This video review provides more insight into the company and their earphones.


When I bought the Lincoln MKX, I decided to use a ceramic nano coating to protect the finish. I settled on Feynlab and had the work done shortly after I had purchased the car in January of 2018.

The detailer that I had used back then, The Clean-up Shop, had brought some new product in for top dressing tires. A long-lasting product, the tires should stay freshly dressed a year from now.

Whenever I dress tires, I’m lucky to have the treatment last for more than a few weeks.

I picked the car up a few days ago and it looks great even under the unforgiving glair of those detailing lights. The coating looks like new and the car’s finish is free of swirl marks — I hand wash only. The coating on the tires presents a semi-gloss look and it is smooth to the touch.

Norway’s $47BN Coastal Highway

This was one of the last photos I took of Norway, just as we were leaving Flam.

I would have to say that Norway was one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. The landscapes were truly amazing.

I came across this video highlighting a very large scale infrastructure project to connect the coastal communities of Norway.

If implemented successfully, this would be an impressive achievement.




Computer bugs.

Most will credit Grace Hopper with establishing the use of the word “bug” to describe a problem with computers. A dead moth had been found in Harvard’s Mark II computer and Hopper used the term to identify the issue. Literally, a bug was found inside the computer.

However, the use of the word “bug” goes back over 140 years to Thomas Edison. He used that phrase when working on telegraph systems back in the late 1800s.

You can read all about it here.

I received an email earlier this week asking for some help on a website that was exhibiting very slow page loads, in excess of 2 minutes or more. Very few people have the patience to wait a couple of minutes for a page to load.

When I was teaching computer science many years ago, I remember telling my students that the process of debugging required three fundamental steps:

Step 1: identify the problem
Step 2: isolate the problem
Step 3: resolve the problem

The steps are not often easy as some bugs can be very difficult to track down. There is also the tendency to repeat the same approach to problem resolution. Expecting a different outcome from the same approach can lead to lengthy debugging sessions.

My first reaction, upon taking a closer look at the website, was to attribute the issue to outdated themes and plugins, this being a WordPress site.

I was careful to make a full backup of the site and the WordPress database, create a local instance on my desktop, and ensure that all components of the site were using current versions.

Although all good actions to take, that did not resolve the issue. I had yet to identify the problem.

Debugging on the web is fairly good relative to the old days when I was debugging C and Assembler code.

Browsers provide pretty good tools to step through a website and find the issue.

I am quite used to working through complex websites with the development view.

Bringing up my friend’s website allowed me to identify the problem almost immediately with the console trace. Upon loading certain areas of the site, the code failed when attempting to load a resource.

The reason? A bad link to an image file.

It happens with WordPress.

The code was unable to load the resource with the following snippet: <img src=”http://123.45.678.910/~userid/”…

It would eventually timeout and recover without loading the resource hence the lengthy page loads.

I had successfully completed step 1. I had identified the error. I then jumped right to step 3. After all, the problem was pretty obvious to me. And it was obvious. I just forgot to isolate it in the code.

These snippets with bad links were everywhere in the code. And the code was literally just a glob of unformatted text. Thousands of lines of dense code. Very hard to isolate in the WordPress admin panel as most of the pages were created using a visual composer plugin. Fixing the bad links in the WordPress admin panel is not the most fun way to spend your time. Tedious to go in and bring up isolated sections of the code.

After a few hours though, I had found them all and promoted the changes back up to the server.

I asked my friend to walk through the site to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. So far, so good.

Loading images from a hard-coded IP address instead of a domain name is not typically a good thing to do. Fortunately I did not have to go into the WordPress database to update link details. The issue was limited to bad links in the code itself.

I don’t know why it happened. Very few people have changelogs for their websites. I suspect someone was doing something on localhost and uploaded the code through FTP with client-side references. I was just happy to be able to resolve the problem in a timely fashion.

Not too bad for an old, retired CIO.

Fantastical 2

It was innocent enough really. The App Store was telling me that I had an update for Fantastical 2. And what should you do when you have an update from the App Store?

Well, in this case, I probably should have left the update alone.

The story begins with me applying the update. I have many apps that I have purchased from the App Store. And they are frequently updated.

This one, though, decided to give me trouble.

It began with this dialog box. One that I would see several hundred times over the next few days as tech support from Flexibits and Apple attempted, in vain, to resolve the issue.

I followed the direction, entered my password and, voila: the same dialog box reappeared.

I repeated the same steps a few dozen times expecting, perhaps, that my one and only Apple ID and password would eventually be accepted. But all that happened?

And then it dawned on me. A crushing conclusion. I would have to contact technical support.

I am, by nature, a very self reliant person. I prefer to manage my own affairs especially my own tech stuff. It is very rare that I deal with technical support especially with software companies.

But I use Fantastical 2 on all my devices: laptop, smartphone, tablets and desktop. Even though I am retired, I still have important meetings to manage gosh darn it!

Here was my first note out to technical support at Flexibits.

The latest update from the App Store broke my desktop app. I am stuck in an infinite loop with the following dialog:

“Fantastical 2” was purchased using the App Store on another computer. To use “Fantastical 2” on this computer, sign in using the Apple ID and password used to purchase it.

I sign in using the only Apple ID and password I have ever had, and all that happens is the same dialog box comes back up.

Please help.


The reply was actually pretty fast. And it led to the following set of emails:

Funny how the technical support folks continued to focus on the obvious: you must be using a different Apple ID and password so go back and check!

I sent them a copy of my receipt.

I purchased Fantastical 2 on the very iMac which the App Store rejected.

At this point, Flexibits gave up and told me to contact Apple. The problem, they said, must be with the App Store.

So I reached out to Apple.

Well, of course this had absolutely NOTHING to do with the problem. And I told them that. Their response? Well, you will have to contact a different support group at Apple.

And I did.

I have Apple Care which I guess gives me a bit of an advantage in terms of getting technical support in a timely manner. I called Apple Support, provided them my AppleID and my device and within just a few minutes I was online with first-level support.

We spent about an hour or two making all sorts of changes to my machine. We did a safe start with the iMac — at which point Fantastical 2 from the App Store did launch properly — and then moved on to removing login items, trashing all sorts of files and, well, eventually being assigned to second-level support as we kept getting the same dialog box over and over.

I spent several hours on the phone attempting to resolve this issue with second-level support. We tried killing processes in sequence, multiple safe starts as well reinstalling the OS. I must admit I was a bit nervous about doing that step.

Anyway, after spending about four or five hours chasing down the issue, I launched Fantastical 2 from my now very clean iMac and what did I get?


Apple gave up and told me to go back to Flexibits.

Which I did. At this point, I thought it would be easier just to buy the desktop version off the Flexibits website and abandon the App Store upgrade altogether. But, now that I am retired, I have to think about expenses. Why should I have to pay twice for the same product?

So I started with a request for a discount.

Their first response was to try and make the website version authenticate with a hidden file that the App Store deposits on the computer. Using the terminal app, I punched in a Unix copy command, optimistic that I would finally have my app back and working.

Clicked on the Fantastical 2 app icon and…

We tried a bunch of other technical stuff and it became apparent to Flexibits that this problem was not going to get resolved.

The other way out of this pickle was a link to a coupon for a zero-cost license to Fantastical 2 from the Flexibits website.

I clicked on the Fantastical 2 app icon and…

Why I Sold My Kemper

Morgan AC 20 Deluxe. Sold.

Clark Beaufort. Sold.

Fender Super Champ. Sold.

Mesa Boogie Road King Dual Rectifier with 4×12 Cab. Sold.

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18. Sold.

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Sold.

Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special. For Sale.

Fender ’64 Deluxe Reissue. For Sale.

Fender ’57 Tweed Deluxe Reissue. For Sale.

That leaves me with two amps: the Swart STR Tremolo and the Swart AST Mk II head and 1×12 cab.

With retirement, downsizing and a focus on travel for the next few years, carrying all of these amps really made no sense which is why I sold most of them.

Getting older comes with its own set of challenges. Hauling around heavy amps and heavy pedalboards being one of them.

I have always been a tone snob. As far as I was concerned, tube amps were the only way to get a great guitar sound. I found the early digital modellers, like the Line 6, to be less than satisfactory. Some players I knew were able to get some great results from that class of technology but it wasn’t for me.

And then the community of guitarists that I hang around with started jumping into modeling. Specifically the Kemper platform.

I’ll be south during the winter months travelling in a 40-foot diesel coach. Although the coach offers a lot of living space, given the form factor, I have to travel light.

Guitar amps are bulky.

Modellers like the Kemper promised great sounds and portability.

I bought one.

I struggled to get “the sound” I was looking for from the Kemper rig.

I purchased thousands of profiles trying to find a few gems in what appeared to be a large pool of mediocre tones. I ditched my pedalboards and went all in with the Kemper for about a year.

I gave it a chance.

The Kemper just didn’t work for me.

It also grew in size and weight.

By the time I added the rack case, the Kemper remote, and a bunch of external pedals, I had a rig that was pretty much the same bulk as my smaller amp rigs.

I sold the Kemper and bought the Fractal AX8.

Very portable. Very affordable (relative to the Kemper). Really great sounding models out of the box. And great sounding effects.

The software side of the Fractal was significantly ahead of the Kemper.

I came across this post: Why I Bought a Modeling Rig and Why I Didn’t Go Kemper.

Similar journey.

Having made the move to in-ear monitors, I don’t miss the “amp in the room” sound. The tones from the Fractal are consistent stage-to-stage relative to an amp, the amp models and effects are pretty easy to tweak and even with some limitations on the CPU, I find that I am so close in tone to what I had been using before with my amps that the few drawbacks are pretty insignificant.

Plus I can carry a guitar, the Fractal and a small gig bag without breaking my back. Setup and teardown is a snap. I don’t worry about tubes going microphonic and I don’t worry about being too loud on stage. I rarely play gigs where I am not being mic’d through a system. And, whenever that does happen, I pull out one of my Swart amps.

I use the Fractal for everything now, even my jazz playing.

It sounds great to my ear and I can take it with me wherever I go.

But I will still keep a couple of tube amps.

Just in case.

Internet Addiction

Lorraine passed this along to me over lunch I think. Not really sure as I was busy on my iPhone 😉

Into Thin Air

Garth Turner really does not like Bitcoin. Or any other cryptocurrency for that matter:

Bitcoin is done. Kaput. So is Ethereum, Tether, Ripple and all the other kiddie cryptos which people have been mining in their bedrooms and selling on unregulated, undisciplined, unsecure, immature and unstable exchanges.

You can read his post here.

I was giving a technology presentation last December. During sound check, the sound person asked me if I was going to say anything about Bitcoin. I told him that I was going to talk a little bit about Blockchain, the technology underneath Bitcoin, but nothing specifically on cryptocurrencies.

“Why do you ask?” I said.

Turns out that he had purchased Bitcoin simply because everyone else was making out like bandits and he wanted in. Unfortunately, as you can see from the chart above, he bought in near the top of the mountain, that initial drop from peak which tempts everyone to dive back into the pool and snap up the coins quickly, while they are still on sale.

Except that Bitcoin wasn’t on sale.

Whether cryptocurrencies will bounce back or not is hard to say. Any type of bubble, whether it is the current nonsense with real estate in Canada, marijuana stocks or Bitcoin, will make a small group of people very, very wealthy. For most, bubbles end badly. With Bitcoin, many people bought with debt, usually credit card debt.

Someone bought Bitcoin at $19,870 USD on a credit card.

They cannot be having a good day today.

Here are some predictions about the future value of Bitcoin. A couple of these predictions claim $1 million or more for Bitcoin.

A gold rush.

At least until the bubble bursts.