Yesterday marked a year since I passed a kidney stone and figured out why I'd been suffering from health problems for months, and thanks to Covid-19 I'm still waiting for that to be sorted out. I'm not holding my breath. At the moment I'm going to be pretty surprised if anything gets resolved in the next year. I might be managing my health better than I was at this point last year, but I'm not in good health. That was painfully evident as I watched footage of myself on camera this morning while editing last night's stream. Just look at the woeful state I was in...
That recent wobble I talked about hasn't left me quite yet, it seems. I really was very under the weather yesterday and during the stream I soon realised that fact, which is why I ended up finishing things up in well under an hour.
This morning I slept in until 11 o'clock—that's how rough I'm feeling at present. My problem is (I think) that because I'm not working at the moment, I've been pressuring myself into doing lots of "productive" things like producing new music and creating content for my live streams and I appear to have forgotten just how important it is to stop and relax once in a while. I really need to look after myself with more care than I'm managing to do right now and take things more slowly because I appear to have forgotten how to switch off. The consequences of that are catching up with me, and they are not pleasant.
Fellow FAWMer Richard (he's Atitlan there and on Fifty/Ninety) was extolling the virtues of iZotope's IRIS 2 synth in the chat during my live stream on Twitch on Thursday night. The following day I noticed that it was on sale in a Black Friday bundle on iZotope's website. Given that the bundle also included not one, not two, but three Exponential Audio plugins that I hadn't got (R2, PhoenixVerb and Excalibur) this was clearly too great a coincidence to ignore. So I caved in and bought the bundle. After I'd downloaded everything (IRIS 2 comes with a very extensive set of sample libraries) I had a brief play on Friday night, but I didn't start to properly get to grips with it until Saturday, when I sat in the studio reading the manual and noodling on the Push while I listened to a 2018 episode of Brian Koppelman's excellent The Moment podcast where he spent an hour talking to Geddy Lee about songwriting, creativity, and being one third of the legendary prog rock band Rush.
New sounds always inspire me. I've got to the point in my trajectory as a musician where I can usually find a melody or phrase that really suits a particular sound and uses its timbre effectively. I like to think of this as discovering how to play the sound rather than the instrument which is making it. I came up with a neat little musical motif after a while, so despite saying on Thursday's stream that I wasn't going to do any musicking for a few days, I suddenly found myself starting work on a new track, to which I've given the name "disequilibrium", and quite possibly kicking off a new album into the bargain.
And I don't know why I did so, but as I added a bass line and then a nice bit of orchestral backing with Abbey Road ONE, I decided that I'd fire up the studio cameras, start OBS, and stream what I was doing in case anyone was interested. I wasn't expecting anyone to show up, but several friends stopped by to say "Hi" and I even gained a new follower!
I really like how the new track is developing, although I'm not sure about the guitars that were the last part I added yesterday. The feedback I got about the stream was interesting, too—people liked seeing me do the work, rather than just watching me talking about doing the work (funny that...)
After I signed off, I had a think about what I'd learned by breaking out of my live stream routine. For a start, adding a prominent caption of "as-it-happens composing using Ableton Live" seemed to prompt more people to drop in on the stream to hear what was going on, so I will be doing that on all my streams from now on as a result. Clearly, I don't have to be in presenter mode all the time, either; if what I'm doing is interesting enough, people will still watch. And Twitch Inspector confirmed that the tweaks that I've made to the stream settings have vastly improved stability. The stream was rock solid from start to finish, even though I upped the bitrate from 2500 kbps to 4000 kbps.
So, after further contemplation today, I have made a couple of decisions about moving forwards on Twitch. Firstly, I'm going to do these as-and-when, as-it-happens composing sessions more regularly. I will do them when I feel like I've got something that people would enjoy watching, rather than scheduling them. That stops me getting stressed out about feeling that I have to come up with more content by a deadline; I've had enough of meeting arbitrary and meaningless performance targets, even if it's me who is setting them. I will still run my regular streams on Sunday night and Thursday night, because after twenty-eight weeks of presenting the Thursday night stream it's become a bit of a fixture. But streaming at other times of the day (or night) gives me a chance of reaching people who aren't able to watch in the evenings, UK time. If I can pick up just one follower per stream from doing this, I'll be delighted.
Secondly, I'm not going to be publishing these impromptu streams on my YouTube channel. Apart from anything else, I don't have the time to edit down any more than the three or four hours of video that I already archive every week. Adding liner notes and explanatory subtitles to the footage takes a surprising amount of time, even if the computer I use can now render out a finalised video in less than half the time it used to take. The impromptu shows will be on Twitch for sixty days, and then they'll be gone (so for the next couple of months, you'll be able to watch Saturday's stream here.) That will, I hope, encourage people to watch my stuff on Twitch's platform as well as here or on YouTube, which will improve my analytics (and it's all about the analytics; this is why I tend to do my own thing with streaming, because that way I'm supporting and growing my own channel rather than contributing to the growth of someone else's revenue stream at my expense—and given what I've had to deal with this month I'm sure you can understand why that's kind of a big thing for me.)
I'm certainly not short of time to devote to music at the moment, and this will give me something to focus on in the next few months. Here in South Gloucestershire, we will be in Tier 3 when lockdown finishes on December 2nd. The change in rules here is minimal and my current life as a shut-in will continue unaffected, so I might as well create something nice that I can share with people. So if you want to join in my grand experiment, please follow me on Twitch.
I'll be there with my scheduled "Is It FAWM Yet?" show tonight at 21:00 GMT.
It was -5°C outside here last night and even though my central heating system had been on for an hour when I got up this morning, the house didn't feel particularly warm. I've just been round and bled the radiators, which had quite a lot of air in them; I've no idea why this happens, but it's beginning to irritate me. And the heating is back on. I suspect that it will stay on for the rest of the day.
Despite the plummeting temperatures outside, the studio was nice and toasty for last night's Twitch livestream. It went on for well over two hours, but I've edited it down significantly for the version here:
I'm still recovering from my recent wobble (and retreating under the duvet with a hot water bottle remains my preferred course of action at the moment) but I tried not to be too grumpy or gloomy about matters, even if it seems like I have plenty to be grumpy and gloomy about at the moment. But my Mooer Ocean Machine reverb and delay unit failing has really gotten to me. The complete lack of any response at all from Mooer's UK office when I enquired about getting it fixed has annoyed me more than usual, too.
As I said in the show, I'm going to take a break from musicking for a few days before I master the new album, but I plan on having it ready for Bandcamp Friday, which is a week today on December 4th.
I got through last night's stream without any audio problems, software glitches, or network instability. It made a nice change, the payoff for spending several hours making test recordings in OBS while I adjusted the gain on each component in multiple signal chains and tweaked OBS settings all over the place. I discovered a few faulty cables in the process, too. But during the stream I had fun, even if I had to edit out several outbreaks of yawning for the YouTube video you can watch right here:
Also edited out were my comments on the numpty who popped up in the chat and—with no attempt to interact with what was going on in the stream at all or even acknowledge anybody else involved—spammed everyone with a request for us all to check out his brother's work on Soundcloud. I've amended the chat rules to make it even more clear that if someone does this from now on, they're going to be blocked. I'm not going to engage with anyone who does this any more; life's too short. I've switched on the mod icons in my chat view so I can rapidly nuke transgressors with a single mouse click because I am *so* done with people taking my stuff and making it about them.
Those attacks of yawning during yesterday's show took me by surprise, given the amount of coffee I'd drunk before starting the proceedings. But I'm pretty knackered at the moment because I can't get comfortable enough to stay asleep for the whole night. Instead, I've been waking up every few hours as a wide selection of aches, pains, and itches intrude on my dreams. Note to self: never, ever use Red Tiger Balm ever again, because if you do, you'll be paying the price for weeks afterwards...
Last night I didn't get to sleep until the small hours of the morning, and it was even more of a struggle to get out of bed today than it usually is, because I knew I needed to face the outside world; I left the house this lunchtime for the first time in nearly a fortnight to go and do some food shopping. Thankfully, apart from one dude wanting to jump ahead of me in the checkout queue, it was a relatively stress-free experience but now that I'm home, I do not intend to leave the house again for at least a week. I find it increasingly difficult to not say anything when I see people being complete idiots about wearing a mask, obeying social distancing rules, or generally not managing to behave like responsible adults. Down the road in Yate, they seem to think that holding raves is a perfectly acceptable thing to do during a pandemic, and there was another one at the weekend that really did not end well. What is wrong with people at the moment?
Lockdown was pretty much my default state even before the current mess started. I suspect that it will remain so even if we somehow manage to get things under control. Given the way that people are behaving at the moment, that seems pretty unlikely.
It's Sunday, so I'll be running the Is It FAWM Yet? show live from the studio once again at 21:00 GMT. I might have found myself getting frustrated with my streaming setup over the last week or so thanks to niggles with the audio like scratchy faders, but I have to remind myself that just a month ago I was trying to produce professional looking and sounding content from a workspace that was crammed under a bunk bed and surrounded by piles of books and magazines stacked in shelves that were in danger of imminent collapse. And if I look back just five months ago, several of the synthesizers that are now seeing regular use were languishing in a corner of the studio. They were stacked up against the wall because I didn't have a stand with the capacity for them. It's amazing just how fast novelty turns into routine; I am privileged to have a place in my home that is entirely given over to making music, and I must never allow myself to forget that fact.
Despite the studio chair's gas strut clearly beginning to show its age as I gently sag to the floor while each recording session proceeds, my setup is now pretty much complete. Being able to sit with my head in the correct position to get the best from my near-field monitors has improved my mixes no end, as has the absence of a sound-absorbing mattress a foot over my head (who'd have thought, eh?) The largest piece of the puzzle that's still missing is the keyboard that I've ordered for the desk's pull-out shelf. Problems with the supplier mean that it's not likely to get here until Christmas week. I can't complain as it's a new item and very popular, and the price I paid was considerably lower than I've seen with other retailers.
At least commissioning the new gear will give me something to take my mind off spending Christmas alone once again. It sort of sucks, even if it means I'll have very little to stress me out over the holiday season. I know that I won't be the only one on my own, either; this year's Christmas is going to be very different for a lot of people. And given that tomorrow sees the start of the last week of November, it's not as far away as all that, is it? Yikes...
I was deeply saddened—even disgusted—by the United States's National Science Foundation announcement this week that because of damage sustained over this year's hurricane season, the giant radio telescope at Arecibo in Costa Rica (which has featured prominently in several movies including Contact and Goldeneye) is now in too dangerous a condition to be repaired and instead it will be demolished.
I'm saddened, but not at all surprised. Arecibo has struggled to get enough funding to operate for many years now and it's been in a pretty sorry state for a while thanks to years of neglect. Professor Brian Cox remarked on how surprisingly grubby it was when he visited it a few years back. The dish was so filthy that it had to be cleaned up with computer graphics for its film appearances. Arecibo was about to embark on a major program of much-needed repairs caused by 2017's Hurricane Maria when it was subjected to a swarm of earthquakes back in January. Then when a cable supporting the dish snapped, back in August (and it's still not clear why it did so), it punched a hundred-foot hole in the surface of the reflector.
Even if there are other radio telescopes in operation that are as large as (or even larger than) Arecibo, its destruction is a profound and far-reaching loss to science. I'm really saddened by the news.
As I explained on Thursday night's show, I was pretty upset this week after discovering how much my work was being ripped off across the Internet. And when I called out one YouTube producer on it in their comments for the video in which my Motorhead photos appeared not once, but three times, the "Tu Quoque" response I initially got didn't exactly fill me with hope of getting anything sorted out. (It's a logical fallacy used in bad rhetoric which in this context took the form of blaming me for letting myself get ripped off in the first place). I've emailed them with my current rates for using my images, and they've gone rather quiet. I wonder why?
Having this happen on top of the stress I experienced trying to sort out last week's Amazon order hasn't done my health any good at all and on Tuesday I had a persistent tremor in my right hand that lasted most of the day. I've been in a pretty sorry state this week and I felt absolutely miserable. Yesterday I made a big tray or marshmallow Rice Krispie treats and that has helped a bit, but not much. I have calmed down a little bit from last weekend's debacle, but I still view Amazon with utter contempt at the moment. I've decided to challenge myself and do all my Christmas shopping this year without using their services at all—that's how angry at them I still am.
But right now, I'm finding it very difficult not to view the world in general with the same jaundiced and misanthropic eye that I've cast on Amazon; I never expected to become rich from any of my various creative activities, but when people just help themselves to my work (and make money at my expense in the process), it feels like there's no longer any point in being a creator at all. You can't use "exposure" to buy food at the supermarket.
Despite this I was back on Twitch last night—either I was being resolutely bold and undaunted, or I'm just too slow on the uptake to know better—and all things considered I had a pretty good time, even if the stream suffered from some very crackly audio; the mixer has already been given a badly-needed squirt of Servisol today. I also noticed during the show that one of the audio cables from my GR-55 guitar synthesizer had given up the ghost, so that's been swapped out as well. Oh, and there was also the point when I discovered that enabling HDR on my spiffy new LG monitors under Windows 10 wasn't a great idea, as it breaks the Display Capture tool within OBS. One day I'll get through a stream on Twitch without a single technical problem, but whenever that happens, it's not going to be this week.
This was the first normal-length show that I've edited since I put the original memory from my studio PC in the downstairs system and doubled its RAM from 16 Gb to 32 Gb, so I was interested to see if it was going to have a noticeable effect. It certainly did; I think I've pretty much halved the amount of time it takes to produce the final video. It now takes me considerably longer to upload the result to YouTube than it does for the computer to render the file. It's not much of a win as far as this bear of a week goes, but if that's all I'm going to get, I'll take it.
I set the central heating timer back to its automatic setting last night, two days short of my record for holding out against the effects of winter taking hold in the house. I was glad I did, too; by midnight it was 0°C outside, although it warmed up slightly once a warm front moved in and the rain arrived. This morning the house was nice and warm when I eventually dragged myself out of bed, but I'll admit that I struggled to find the motivation to emerge from under a toasty warm duvet.
It's proper dreich outside today. Cold and grey and drizzling. By three in the afternoon the living room was so dark that my cuckoo clock's sounder switched itself off. The furthest afield I've been this week was to put the bins out on the street, and today is not going to change that.
I've discovered that my studio gear makes a very effective heating source if I stay upstairs and make music, so that's what I'm going to do for the rest of the afternoon.
This is a copy of the email that I sent off to Amazon HQ yesterday afternoon.
-- Begin copied text --
Dear Mr Bezos,
I appreciate these are difficult times and systems are struggling to cope with new circumstances, but I have been let down badly this week and I'd like to make some observations on how my problem was handled in the hope that other customers will fare better than I've done.
A bit of context (feel free to skip):
In short, life sucks pretty hard at the moment. For the past 18 months I've been experiencing chronic pain from a stone on one kidney and a cyst on the other. When it's bad, the pain is extremely debilitating. I can't comment on the cliché I've been told many times over the last year and a half that it hurts more than giving birth does, but I can believe it. Thanks to Covid-19, the chances of me getting treatment for the condition are, essentially zero right now. I'm not working at the moment and frankly my condition means that I'm limited in the amount of work I can do, but I specialise in business consultancy and customer care. So I understand how the customer experience should work and how it should be handled when things go wrong.
To keep myself sane, I make music (and I have tracks available on Amazon music if you're interested in giving them a listen, even if I have yet to see any income from them.) With the UK being in lockdown, Twitch has become a big part of how I interact with my friends. It's an important part of my life in that it gives me something to focus on, it distracts me from the pain I'm in, and I use it to share my experiences making music. My account is, you will be glad to hear, linked with my Prime membership. I am gradually building up a following both there and on YouTube. Streaming regularly is an essential part of the process of building an audience. Every week I play new tracks that I've made, talk about my process, and share tips and tricks with other creators.
So, the details:
I ordered a RAM upgrade from Amazon on Monday 9th November, expecting it to arrive on Wednesday, in plenty of time for my regular Thursday night show. I needed it because the music I make has begun to max out its current configuration and additionally, because the machine I use for editing my shows afterwards and posting them on YouTube has been running low on memory and crashes repeatedly. The memory I ordered from Amazon would replace the RAM in my studio machine, and the current RAM in my studio machine could then be transferred to my work machine, which is also my edit suite—I cascade the upgrade, and get two improvements for the price of one. As I'm not working much these days, I need to make every penny count.
The delivery didn't arrive on Wednesday. On Thursday morning I checked the order status, and read that Amazon had "fixed the address issue" but that I should amend my delivery details "so that the issue does not happen again." I have been living at this address for twenty-five years. My address details have not changed since I joined Amazon in 1999. In the last twenty-one years I have used Amazon a lot. Orders I make tend to get here, although the next day delivery aspect of Prime membership doesn't always happen.
So here's point one: might I suggest that framing a message about a failed delivery as arising because the address the customer has supplied was somehow wrong is not a good course of action to take if you want them to remain a customer, particularly when the customer knows that there's nothing wrong with their details and can see on the same page that there is a link that the customer can click on that revealed what had actually happened?
It had been sent to Norwich. Which is on the other side of the country.
I could see from the tracking details that the package arrived in Bristol on Friday morning at 5:52 AM. Great, I thought. I'll pull the RAM out of the machine I'd used for Thursday's show, edit everything, and have the studio PC up and running with its new memory in time for Sunday's show. So that's what I did. I left the machine I use for streaming in my recording studio, in bits, with no memory.
The memory did not arrive on Friday.
When I contacted Amazon support they were very nice and apologised and everything and reassured me that my RAM upgrade would be delivered on Saturday. That still left me enough time to install the memory and get back online, although I was beginning to get uncomfortable about cutting things close. I was told that the representative would call me on Saturday to make sure that the package had arrived.
The memory did not arrive on Saturday. I did not get my phone call. I made no new music.
The tracking information indicated that the package was still sitting in Bristol, where it had been since 5:52 AM on Friday morning. It's about fifteen miles from my house. I could have walked there and picked up the package by this time.
So I contacted Amazon support again on Saturday, and again everyone was very nice and professional and I was reassured that even though I might not get my memory upgrade on Saturday, it would be with me on Sunday. By now I was getting a sinking feeling, but I thanked the representative for his help and sat down to wait.
It didn't arrive on Saturday evening.
It didn't arrive on Sunday morning, either.
Instead, I received an email apologising for the inconvenience and assuring me that the replacement item had been ordered, and would be with me on Tuesday 17th November.
So I have a live stream to do tonight, on a PC that has no memory in it because it's been transferred to the PC I'm using to write this email and which I use for video editing. I've no new music to share, because the studio PC is still in bits. I am in a difficult situation; I'm going to let down my audience, and it's happened because Amazon have seriously let me down.
So my second and final piece of advice: might I suggest that if a parcel gets lost, as has clearly happened here, your systems are honest about the matter? Your customer service representatives do a fine job following their scripts and I appreciate that they're put in a difficult situation, but if their scripts are telling them to reassure the customer instead of owning up and allowing the customer to make alternative arrangements for sourcing an item, when the customer eventually realises that they've been given the runaround (as I realised this morning) and that it's now too late to get what they need from another supplier in time, this is likely to make the customer rather cross.
In short: when things go wrong, it's important to own up to the fact and not string the customer along with false hope that they're going to get sorted out in time.
I must emphasise that none of the people I dealt with are at fault here; it's their systems that have let them (and me) down. I don't mean to criticise them at all; life's hard enough as it is right now. I simply hope that this email helps Amazon to improve in a way that will spare other customers from going through the same experience I've had.
But I am, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely furious right now. The lesson that I have learned is that I can neither rely on or trust Amazon when it comes to important, time-critical purchases. I am also seriously considering cancelling my Prime subscription.
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In fairness to Amazon, that email did get a reply this afternoon. They've apologised and credited my account with a voucher to make amends for the inconvenience caused, which is the absolute bare minimum that I was expecting them to respond with (as I wrote in my email, I used to be a customer care trainer; I know how the game is played.) The replacement memory was delivered on Monday afternoon. But here's the icing on the cake: the original, "lost" package arrived at the same time.
I don't need both and I was not prepared to faff about traipsing over to the nearest MyHermes return point to me (which is eight miles away) to send it back, because it's Amazon's problem, not mine—so I handed it back to the delivery driver. I didn't get a receipt for it. What's the betting that will come back to bite me?
Once I realised that I wasn't going to get the memory upgrade in time for the show, I hastily set up the machine downstairs with a fresh install of OBS to put together a makeshift stream on Sunday night. That's time and effort that I had to expend purely because Amazon had let me down, and I'm not going to be compensated for that. As you might expect, with no new music to share and none of my usual studio gear to support the stream, the resulting show was way below the usual standard that I've set for myself; the HFO curse struck almost immediately and I had to restart the stream because of a bizarre encoding issue with the audio that made me sound like a chipmunk, and oh boy, the mic I was using is nowhere near as flattering to my voice as the trusty Shure SM7B that I have upstairs. There was room noise, there was mic noise and it turns out that my chair is incredibly squeaky. The camera I used is the cheap Chinese webcam that kept crapping out on me when I used it upstairs (and no, I never throw anything like that away because sooner or later I know that I'm going to need to use it, as I did last night) and while it kept working for an hour or so, the image quality wasn't really up to scratch.
As I explained at the beginning of the show, I was broadcasting pretty much by candlelight because otherwise my cuckoo clock and the RSPB bird clock which my mother bought me years ago would have been interrupting the proceedings with sound effects every half hour. I was, as will be very rapidly established if you watch the show, not a happy bunny. I am still not a happy bunny this afternoon.
But the studio PC is now back up and running with 64 Gb of RAM. I'll be heading upstairs after I've finished this blog update to give it a thorough commissioning to make sure it's working okay, but the initial results look very promising, which is a relief. And this morning I used the PC downstairs to edit last night's show and upload it to YouTube, and I'm pleased to report that the memory upgrade has significantly improved its performance for video editing (and for the first time in weeks, it didn't crash once while I was using Vegas.) Even allowing for the fact that the show was much shorter than usual, rendering it out seemed much faster (and the show is the only one so far that I've streamed in full HD, so there was considerably more data to wrangle.) It's just a pity the quality of the content is below par, but there wasn't much I could do about that. And that continues to bug the hell out of me.
Since lockdown was reintroduced both here and abroad, Internet usage has been going through the roof. Last night, Internet traffic was bloated still further by gamers all downloading system updates for their brand-new XBox consoles. As a result, viewers of my live stream got a lot of buffering yesterday. Looking at Twitch Inspector afterwards I discovered that network connectivity had got so bad that I'd dropped off the net for a couple of minutes during the show. There's nothing wrong with how my system is configured or the connection between the PC in the studio and my router (in fact Twitch Inspector gave me an "excellent" rating for my setup). It's the Internet as a whole that is struggling with the amount of traffic it's carrying in the evenings at the moment. It's a pity, because last night's show was one of my better attempts, even if I say so myself.
Things aren't going to be any better next Thursday, because Sony will be launching the PlayStation5 here in the UK. I'll press on regardless, although I suspect that you might be better off waiting for me to post the edited version on YouTube afterwards.
No really, Amazon. Make the cockup you perpetrated in sending the PC memory upgrade I ordered from you on Tuesday—for next day delivery, I might add—over to Norwich somehow my fault. Why do my address details (which have not changed since I started using your services twenty-one years ago) somehow suddenly need amending "to avoid this issue next time" when it's glaringly obvious that the fault lies with you?
And despite the fact that the package is currently sitting down the road in Bristol, I'm told by your customer service representative that it can't be delivered until tomorrow. I know this is #firstworldproblems and all that, but I kind of needed that upgrade yesterday. I was hoping to have both of my systems up and running with double their current memory in time for last night's Twitch stream. Instead, I've had to put up with Vegas crashing on me yet again during this morning's editing session. And each time it did, Amazon, I cursed your name.
I'm actually pretty angry about this. Prime membership doesn't come cheap. Several recent orders I've made with you have "run late", as your order tracking system puts it; as an example, an order that I placed back in October only turned up today, a fortnight late. You might have noticed that my book- and film-buying shopping with you has tailed off recently. That's because I've become so dissatisfied with your service that I've switched over to Hive; I didn't use my normal supplier for computer bits because I mistakenly thought I could get what I needed the next day from Amazon because I pay you extra money each year for that to happen. Yeah, well I won't be making that mistake again. Giving me a five-pound voucher after I complained ain't gonna cut it, either.
I was really hoping that this latest period of discomfort would last a couple of days and then fade away to a general background grumbling, but it seems determined to stick around for a while longer. If I move in certain ways such as attempting to move my arms above my shoulders, I might even go so far as to drop the use of the word "discomfort" in favour of the word "pain". As a result, I'm not exactly being energetic at the moment and I'm very glad I did most of the household chores and tidying up at the weekend.
The pain isn't helping with my current musical endeavours. I spent the greater part of yesterday working on a track for the next album, but I just couldn't get it to work. It felt like I'd wasted the day flailing around with no clear idea of how to move things forward. So I'm going to leave things for a while and let the idea I've got in my head develop on its own.
The big news this morning—for me at least— was the announcement of the impending launch of Ableton Live 11, which will be released early in the new year. That will be around three years after the release of Live 10, which dropped back on February 6th 2018.
I'll be talking about the announcement during my Twitch live stream on Thursday, but there are plenty of promising-looking new additions to what has been my DAW of choice since I first started using it at version 8.0, but I'm already excited at the prospect of working with some very cool-looking new toys.
No, not the weekend's election results; since I installed version 12 of NetBeans, its code completion behaviour has been driving me nuts because it would not stop offering options—none of which I was looking to use—after it had been triggered once, such as by typing a semicolon in a paragraph of text. Googling the problem threw up lots of different suggestions, none of which worked because they either had no effect at all or they turned off code completion entirely. Today I have finally managed to get things to work more-or-less like they used to work in the earlier versions of NetBeans that I've been using to maintain this site for years.
I had to go into the Tools | Options | Code Completion window and edit all the options for all the different code templates (i.e. not just HTML) and turn them all off. Well, I couldn't turn them all off, because the appalling interface includes several options that have radio buttons which toggle between "all on" and "mostly on". Doing that has finally stopped autocomplete staying on after I've selected an option from the pop-up menu, most of the time. The behaviour is now merely an annoyance rather than being a hindrance that was making me seriously consider switching to a different development tool. It's only taken me six months or so to manage the feat.
Apache's own documentation for the system has been no help whatsoever. If you want to see what a training programme looks like when it's been developed by a computer programmer rather than a training designer, look no further than the NetBeans Learning Trail on the Apache website, which is a dog's breakfast of badly-presented snippets of information with no overview or index in sight and a confusing and unexplained structure which seems to have been determined on the grounds of the author thinking to themselves, "well, that's what *I'd* want to do first" and which glibly asserts that it will "provide you with everything you need to know." Newsflash: it doesn't. It's terrible.
Note to self: do not change the buffer settings for your audio interface while you're streaming with OBS, as it will break things. Other than that, yesterday's stream went okay.
I have been having a number of technical issues with the studio PC as the musical arrangements I'm creating get more complex and I push its capabilities harder. I've also been having problems with the downstairs PC that I use for everything else running out of memory. Today I caved in and ordered a RAM upgrade for the studio PC that will max out the motherboard's capacity. The old DDR4 DIMMs in the studio machine will fit the downstairs PC and double the amount of memory it's got, so I'll get two upgrades for the price of one. Result!
Via Brian Eno's Twitter feed: Illusion songs.
After all the exertions of the last few weeks I'm a mess of aches and pains at the moment. The cold weather is really enhancing every single twinge that ails me, too—I am back to sleeping really badly, even with a hot water bottle to keep me cosy under the duvet. Another reason why I slept poorly last night was that I'd let the house get cold; the temperature outside fell to -1°C and when I went downstairs this morning it was just 12°C in the living room. I put the heating on for a couple of hours and it's back up to a comfortable 17° right now. I have yet to switch the heating back to its automatic setting, which for me marks the beginning of winter proper, but I must admit I was tempted when I realised how cold it was today. Last year I caved in on November 9th, the year before that on October 26th, and in 2017 on November 7th, so I've been fairly consistent over the past few years. I suspect that I won't be beating my all-time record this year, though. I set that in 2015, when I didn't succumb until November 21st. Things are supposed to warm up a little over the weekend, so I should beat last year's date, even if it's only by a few days.
But I'm going to be taking things easier for a while. Although I'm not in such a sorry state as I was on Sunday night, I'm definitely under the weather and I'm getting by mainly because of regular doses of Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. The hangers for my guitars have arrived, but I'm not going to fit them for a while. I'm going to chill out (ha!) for a week or so and see if my aches and pains subside a bit. And if that doesn't work, I guess it'll be time to set the central heating time back to "automatic" for the winter.
After the shambles of Sunday's show I was considerably more with-it for last night's live stream, which featured me in my Halloween costume (after Mel asked me to show it off) and a whole host of goodies that include lots of free stuff to pimp out your DAW and five pieces of music from me. I had fun.
There were a few oddities during the show, particularly with audio. When I fired up the closing credits I couldn't hear the music playing at all, though from the vu-meters in OBS it appeared to be playing for my audience (and the audio also made it to the recording of the stream that's embedded above.) I'll be doing some testing before Sunday night's show to try and establish what was going on.
The home recording setup is really looking like a studio now.
This morning I tidied away the last of the bits and pieces that had been moved out of the way for the refit, but I've already recorded some music with the new layout, and it's sounding grand. The rest of the house has also benefited from the studio upgrade, and my bedroom in particular is looking tidier than it has done in years...
Although the quality of my sleep last night may have had something to do with the gigantic vat of chilli I cooked yesterday, I was very glad of my hot water bottle last night (and it did the trick; my phone app gave me a sleep score of 91, which is higher than I've managed for quite a while. The last time I got a score that high was back on September 24th.) The temperature outside dropped to -2°C overnight and even in my bedroom, which is usually nice and cosy, it reached a minimum of 16.5°C. The back lawn was white with frost this morning and there was ice on the conservatory roof.
The forecast for the next couple of nights is for clear skies, so the temperature will probably drop back again tonight. For the first time in years it's going to be clear on Bonfire Night tomorrow, but all the big displays have been cancelled because of lockdown.
Meanwhile over the pond an election is going on and at the moment it's an alarmingly close-run, tense affair. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I can't bear to watch the news so I will be focusing on making more music today.
The studio refit got a lot closer to completion yesterday, as I put together some very large shelf units and then spent several hours filling them with my collection of science fiction novels. It turns out I have rather more of the things than I was expecting, and the shelves are two books deep in places. Some of the books have been sitting in the spare bedroom in cardboard boxes since I moved here, so it was well past time that they saw the light of day again. You can see a couple of the treasures that I uncovered in the stream I did on Sunday night, below.
I was still moving things back into the room ten minutes before going live on Twitch for the fourth episode of the "Is It FAWM Yet?" show. But it wasn't until about five o'clock this afternoon that I could consider the room as being fully back up and running (and I still need to figure out where my Theremin is going to live). Watching myself this afternoon as I edited the episode for YouTube, I was shocked at just how utterly shattered I looked, although drinking a pint of lager on a very empty stomach would not have helped things. I'd spent the previous eight hours doing so much physical activity that my watch thought I'd been cycling and I hastily swapped t-shirts just before I went live after I noticed the black one I was wearing had big salt marks on it. Ew. The show seems to make sense for the most part, and the points I made about networking are important ones.
Today the guitars moved back in again, although I might have to rethink how I'm racking them when the new MIDI controller arrives—that will depend upon how far out I need to pull the keyboard shelf when I want to use it. But for the moment, I think I'm good to go. The proof of that assertion will become clear (or not) tomorrow, when I get back to the business of actually making music. Tune in at 19:30 on Thursday on Twitch to see how I'm doing.
But I'm worn out. I could barely get out of my chair after the stream yesterday. I am going to be taking things much easier for the rest of this month.
Yesterday our incompetent cockwomble of our Prime Minister finally got off his backside and appeared (behind schedule) on television last night to tell us that "Urgent action is required," and therefore England would be going back into lockdown. But he completely undermined the urgency of the situation when he went on to announce that lockdown would resume next Thursday. People are just going to think, "Oh, it can't be that bad," and carry on behaving as if nothing was wrong. When I went shopping on Friday there was a gang of teenagers hanging out in the trolley shelter in Sainsbury's car park. None of them was wearing a mask. When I came back to the car an hour later they were still there. People are taking the piss. And they're doing it because the gravity of the situation is not being communicated. The confusing and poorly-presented slides that were used to support last night's announcement were greeted with disbelief (or howls of derision) from pretty much everyone I follow on Twitter who was watching.
"No responsible Prime Minister can ignore these figures" said the shambolic buffoon who was told that the number of infections and hospital admissions was exceeding the Reasonable Worst Case Scenario (RWCS) during the SAGE meeting that took place more than three weeks ago on October 8th and who as been studiously ignoring them ever since.
It's taken more than three weeks for the significance of what he was told then to permeate through his seemingly addled brain to the point where he decided he ought to do something about it.
Unfortunately, the rest of his announcement drifted off into the realms of fantasy. His description of the imminent deployment of a "Test you can do at home," with results available in ten to fifteen minutes, referred (I assume) to the saliva-based PCR test which has been available since September, costs £125 a pop, and has a false positive rate that may be as high as 4%. PCR test results might be available in the lab in 15 minutes, but they've still got to be posted back to you.
And schools are, apparently, going to stay open. Because in Boris's fantasy version of things, kids don't spread the disease. You'd think he'd know better, given the number of offspring he's apparently sired. Maybe he's not too hands-on with the upbringing part of being a father and doesn't know that small children are walking disease vectors?
I thought the Cameron government was bad, but this shower are a complete shitshow. How many more lives will this buffoon's incompetence cost us? Professor Andrew Hayward reckons it'll be in the thousands, and he should know—he's Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London.
Even though civil twilight began at 6:29 GMT this morning and sunrise was at 7:04 GMT (the advantages of the clocks going back an hour for early risers, of which I am not one), it's unseasonably mild at the moment as a winter storm blows through and brings warm air up from the Bay of Biscay. It tipped it down yesterday.
But sunset tonight is at 16:41 GMT and by teatime it's dark outside. It feels like it won't be long before autumn slides in to winter.