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Chris Harris's Blog

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Last update: June 2021

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Want to add some new music to your collection? Want to do so for free? I release an album a month on Bandcamp these days with songs that range from pop to prog, from ambient to spoken word, and from mellow piano ballads to shouty post-punk. The latest addition to my discography is a selection of music I wrote during April for the Fifty/Ninety: The Prequel songwriting challenge, and as the results were—in my humble opinion—rather good, I've called it A Decent Harvest. As with its predecessors, it's a pay-what-you-want deal and that includes free.

My most recent commercial album Oneiric Tulpas is available on Bandcamp! You can also check it out on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal and all your other favourite streaming services. My previous album Beyond is also on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and the rest as well.

My earlier albums Generator and Fort are also available at Bandcamp, together with a large collection of other music from me.

I'M STILL WAITING (1)

...for my new audio interface. I got an email on Thursday afternoon from my supplier letting me know that it hadn't arrived at their shop on time and they didn't know when it was going to show up. My order is currently showing an estimated delivery date of June 16th, but given that the M4's product page on their website now says that it's "available to order" with projected delivery dates at the end of July, I'm not holding my breath.

MOTU products are built in the USA, according to their press releases. That, at least, reassures me that my interface will not be part of the multi-million dollar shipment of consumer goods that is currently stuck on the MV Ever Given, which has yet to leave Egyptian waters. It's been impounded by the Suez Canal Authority, who are seeking compensation (a lot of compensation—the amount of money that makes piracy look positively amateurish by comparison, if you ask me) for the chaos caused when the ship blocked the canal for a week back in March. Instead, I suspect that it's the continuing shortage of DAC chips that is causing the delays. That's the consequence of a fire at the manufacturer's plant last October and the manufacturer in question, Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) recently announced that they still have "no clear prospect for identification of the cause of the fire or for restoration of operation of the plant."

Nevertheless, I've been back in the studio working on music this week. After taking a break, I've realised just how important it is to me to be doing something creative. I also think I've made progress in my songwriting already this month. But my Native Instruments audio interface continues to fall over every fifteen or twenty minutes. It's even started doing it if I play too loudly! Despite this, I'm afraid that I'm just going to have to grit my teeth and wait for its replacement to show up. It's not the optimal solution by any means, but it's all I can afford to do right now.

I'M STILL WAITING (2)

It's been nearly two weeks since I had my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, so I should be approaching fully-vaccinated status. But the Covid situation in the UK is looking as uncertain as ever. Johnson's continued dithering about taking action has let the Delta variant take a firm hold in the UK; despite the figures of new cases mounting, he is still refusing to say whether or not lockdown restrictions will be lifted as planned on June 21st. That has been looking like a very bad idea for several weeks now but his paranoia about being seen as a spoilsport rather than the successor to Churchill which he imagines himself to be continues to paralyse him.

What this means for me is that I still haven't heard about getting my kidney problems fixed. It was last April when the surgeon suggested that it would be a good idea to "Wait until all this blows over" before committing to doing something about them and when I typed that just now, I did so while laughing bitterly.

I've had a rough week, physically. I am having great difficulty sleeping. It's not just the discomfort, although last night that was bad enough for me to use the word "pain" to describe the sensation instead without feeling like I'm being overly dramatic. I suspect that a small piece of the stone may have come loose and is now in the process of making its escape—and believe me, I can follow its progress, even when I do something like turning over in bed. But at present it gets light here at 3:30 am. It's also been hot enough this week for me to switch to the Summer duvet (last year I was still using my Winter duvet in July!) What this means for me is that I am resigned to feeling exhausted all the time until at least the tail-end of August: nautical twilight starts the sensible side of 05:00 here on August 30th, although it'll be astronomical twilight a good 38 minutes earlier at 4:12 am. For comparison purposes, nautical twilight here tomorrow morning starts at 02:49 am. It's astronomical twilight all night, too. It doesn't get properly dark at night here at all at the moment, and it won't do so again until the early hours of July 22nd (for a glorious 37 minutes).

Can you see the problem?

STREAM ON

In such circumstances you can either feel sorry for yourself and do nothing, or grit your teeth and focus on getting on with what you can. I choose to do the latter, so I'll be firing up OBS this evening at 21:00 BST and going live on my Twitch channel once again.

And from now on, as I won't be spending most of the following day editing the broadcast and uploading it to YouTube, if you want to see what goes down as it happens, Twitch is the place to be.

I hope I'll see you there.

POSTLUDE

Even though I was awake at four in the morning, I had that rarest of treats last night: a decent night's sleep. It makes a change. I've really struggled to settle at night recently and I'm in enough pain that if I move the wrong way once I've fallen asleep, the discomfort invariably wakes me up. This morning I dozed pleasantly until I felt like getting out of bed, something which I have grown to appreciate more and more since I stopped working. It's beginning to dawn (aha!) on me just how bad for me waking up at 5:30 am used to be. By the time I left my last job, I was completely burned out. And I'm certain that spending four hours a day sitting in the car during my commute had a lot to do with my current illness, even if it enabled me to keep up to date with all the podcasts that I subscribe to...

I suspect that one reason I slept better was the fact that my calendar of engagements for the next three months is now completely empty. I have no trips or appointments which can trigger anxiety, no social events of any sort, and the only gig I've booked a ticket for doesn't happen until November. Another reason is that after a week or so of really bad sleep, I definitely needed a good night. I felt very tired yesterday, although that may also be thanks to Thursday's second Covid vaccination kicking in. So I am just going to stay here at home and wait for my replacement audio interface to be delivered. If all goes according to plan, it should arrive on Friday and if it performs as expected, I will resume my live streaming activities on Sunday night.

In the meantime, I will be chilling out here at home and catching up on my reading.

FRITZED

My current audio interface continues to misbehave. Last night I took part in a Zoom call to wish the legendary bass player Tony Levin a very happy 75th birthday and the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 that I use fell over four times in less than ninety minutes, turning all the sound I could hear out of my speakers into a fuzzy, bitcrushed mess. The fault happens regularly and it's putting me off making music, which is a major inconvenience.

But at least I know that the fault occurs without my system pulling lots of audio off any of my hard discs. I had been wondering whether that might have been a contributing factor in setting off the fault, because the studio PC spends most of its time doing this when I'm using it. That's clearly not something that happens during a Zoom call, so there's something more fundamental going on. I just wish I knew what it was.

FULLY JABBED

Yesterday afternoon I headed over to the Covid immunisation centre at Bath Racecourse once again. And I got a sticker this time, look:

Second Shot

It's a relief to have got both vaccine shots. I will feel a little less anxious about going shopping where people aren't as focused on social distancing or where they're just being dicks. But the pandemic is far from being over and even though Boris is desperately trying to convince us that everything is okay, it clearly isn't. The new Delta variant is causing a lot of epidemiologists a lot of concern at the moment. It's spreading rapidly and schools and colleges have been "a major source of transmission" according to Professor Christina Pagel, who is the director of University College London’s clinical operational research unit (so I'm inclined to believe what she's saying a lot more than I'm likely to believe our buffoon-in-chief. Hey, do you remember when the Government told us that they'd given schools detailed guidance to keep schools safe, and then dropped the requirement for pupils to wear masks?)

I'll be staying at home as much as possible for the foreseeable, thanks.

SPAM SPAM SPAM

Dear god, Instagram and Facebook have become cesspits of spam these days.

Not a day goes by when I don't get a message from an account—which almost always has a user ID with a guy's name, but whose profile pictures invariably and mysteriously feature photographs of scantily-clad young women with extremely large breasts—which consists of little more than the single word "Hello". This is probably about the only level of interaction in English that the spammer is capable of, judging by the garbled nonsense the user describes as their aspirations on their profile page. I sigh in exasperation, block the user, and move on.

They are, of course, scams. Indonesia seems to be the nexus of the activity at present.

But does Instagram crack down on these scammers? Far from it. Several of them have even started to pop up in my "people you should know" feed there recently, which should tell you a lot about Zuckerberg's priorities when it comes to protecting his user base. And none of it's good.

HERE COMES THE SUN

May redeemed itself at the last minute yesterday. Helen popped around for a coffee and we sat in the back garden and chatted about old times for the rest of the day. She was most entertained by the local bird population, who turned up mob-handed, ignored us completely, and spent the afternoon clearing up the food I'd put out for them on the bird table and the lawn. It was a really lovely day, but I was so surprised and distracted by the fact that I had a visitor that I completely forgot that it's not far off midsummer and didn't wear a hat or put on any sun block; bad move. I looked about the same colour as a beetroot last night and despite applying liberal amounts of after-sun lotion, I am still rather tender this morning.

After yesterday's morose blog entry (I was clearly feeling rather sorry for myself) I feel much more positive this morning. Having company (and being outside in bright sunshine all day) has done me a power of good. I did drink rather a lot of coffee yesterday, though. I was still buzzing well after midnight.

Today the weather continues to be very good. By ten o'clock the temperature in the back garden was edging towards the twenties, and the only cloud cover is a high-altitude layer of aircraft contrails. If I venture outside later I shall make absolutely sure that I apply some sunblock first...