Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For those of you who have not yet cleared out...

For those of you who have not yet cleared out, cursing the procrastinating ways of this busy blogger, or who have not figured out that the saga which this blog was designed to capture has, more or less, wound down (it has, by the way; the summer is decidedly over and there will not be a tour any time soon): I am pretty busy these days and will likely not be blogging here again.
However, I do have enough time to keep my Posterous account going. You can see it at http://ryepdx.posterous.com/

The nerd content is quite high, so beware if you're allergic.

For those of you not familiar with Posterous, it's a website centered around the sharing of webpages with comments from the blogger tacked on to the end. It's the only type of blogging I can manage right now, what with keeping a social life, a band, a full-time job, and a novel going.

For those of you still around, thanks! I appreciate the loyalty (or boredom, whichever it is) that has kept you coming back. Consider this post the shuttering of this blog until further notice.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Canada

They have railroads in Canada? Who knew!
I'm back from Canada, guys! While my initial plans called for three weeks in the land to the north, I quickly discovered that it wasn't all that different from the States. In particular, the part we (my friend, my brother, and I) were in bore a striking resemblance to Oregon. Consequently we got bored pretty quickly and began wondering why we'd even made the trip. At the very least I'd expected a good pub scene, but it turned out Portland pretty much had Vancouver beat. Lots of pubs, but as far as we could tell none of them had anything going on beyond televisions with sports. Maybe all the Canadians headed south to take part in the parties on the 4th?

Not everything was completely boring though. Here are the highlights from the trip:

1) Being detained at the border.

Turns out the border checkpoint is not the place to get philosophical. If the guard asks if you are going to meet anyone in Canada, do not pause for a moment to consider how your answer could be considered foreshadowing in a plot, or how cruel Kismet might turn your answer against you. Just say "yes" or "no." Otherwise the guard's next question will probably be "Why did you pause before you answered that?" The situation will then deteriorate and you will be held for questioning while your car is searched.
On a side note, it was somewhat amusing to note how nervous the guard we were passed on to was when he let us through. He'd done all the questioning with an American accent, but when he made the decision to let us through, explaining to us that the Canadian-US border is not as porous as European ones and that we need better documentation next time, he was definitely sporting a strong Canadian one.


2) Zombie attack in Vancouver!
I have never seen so many meth addicts in one place! Nor homeless people. The greatest concentration seemed to be around the corner of Gore and Cordova, ironically just two blocks away from the police station. No exaggeration, it felt like there was a convention in town. I had a flashback to the scene from Shaun of the Dead where the protagonists pretend to be zombies in order to pass through a zombie horde.


It only helped that we'd slept in the car the night prior and hadn't had a shower yet. At that point I felt we blended in pretty well.

3) Getting panhandled
The homeless people in Vancouver are aggressive! If you ever visit Vancouver and happen across a homeless person, ignore them. Otherwise they'll wrest the money for their next meth fix from your succulent little wallet the same way zombies wrest brains from succulent little skulls. I fell for both the good ol' "ask-if-they-can-break-a-dollar-and-then-take-the-money-in-their-hand-and-run-off" trick as well as the "be-as-obnoxious-as-possible-until-they-throw-money-to-get-rid-of-me" trick. After that I got a little better at handling the homeless problem in Vancouver. I'm particularly proud of escaping a pincer attack attempted by a man and a mailbox as I was walking down the street.
Normally I do try to help homeless people out. I used to hand out food and clothes in downtown Portland for crying out loud. It's just really hard for me to believe someone desperately needs money for a bus ticket when their arms and legs are covered in needle tracts and they've got meth sores all over, no matter how many times they yell it or how in-my-face they get.

4) Lake Alice
I have to admit, the forests in British Columbia are really beautiful. We spent our second day exploring the campgrounds at Lake Alice and then visiting places nearby, such as Whistler (which we only passed through as we could see no reason to pay $16 for parking), Britannia Beach, and Pemberton. At Lake Alice everything was really green. There were a lot of coniferous trees. In other words it looked exactly like Oregon, only we'd driven a few hundred miles north to see it.


Beautiful? Yes. Foreign? Not at all.

5) The waiter
I've heard the people in Canada are the nicest people in the world. I've also heard Canadians are pretty much welcome in any country. I always figured that had something to do with the fact that they never invaded anyone else (except the United States that one time. I'm sure you heard about it in history class. After all, they did burn our capital to the ground!) Maybe they really are just super-nice. I don't know. The only people who talked to us were the pan-handlers, the people at the visitor centers, and waiters and waitresses.
By the second day my friend and I had decided there was little point to staying up in Canada and spending a bunch of money when there really wasn't anything there we didn't also have back in the States. My brother took a little more convincing. It wasn't until he overheard a waiter at The Pony in Pemberton bitching to all his staff about how we were only ordering three drinks (and two of them from the cafe side which, apparently, was not part of "[his] restaurant") that he decided Canada wasn't worth paying to stay in.

6) Britannia Beach
Along highway 99 there's a little place called "Britannia Beach." And I do mean little. We spent most of our time there trying to figure out where the beach was and how to get there. Fortunately a local was kind enough to inform us that the little dock we were standing on was the beach!

7) "Where are all the fat people?"
Because I can't allow every single one of these highlights to be negative, here's a positive one: it seemed like pretty much everyone in Canada was fit. We had a hard time finding overweight people. It was noticeable. So... go Canada.

At any rate, even though the trip was a bit of a disappointment, I'm glad I went! Otherwise I might have spent the rest of my life wondering what the hell Canada looked like. :-p

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No album. Going to Canada.




The title of this post may or may not be a little melodramatic.

The title of this post may or may not be completely accurate.

Believe when I say the Universe has been up to its usual antics

But I think that now I've had enough; yes, I think I've had it.

Europe, Japan? Both were scams. A safe bet? Canada.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Wedding Done. Summer Album, Here We Come!

I shouldn't blog right before going to bed because the siren of sleep ensures I keep my posts more brief than is perhaps prudent. I would like to go on for a bit longer about the wedding than I probably will, especially since it involved OST's two #1 fans, but I also would like to stay awake at work tomorrow. (Which is not to say sleep will be forthcoming: I feel a bit hyperthymic at the moment.)


The wedding went over well, I thought. It was an nerdy, epic affair. I loved it. A triple layer cake laid out like a D&D map. 20-sided dice on the tables at the reception. The music: the Tetris theme for the entrance of the wedding party, the Jedi theme (from John Williams' "The Throne Room") for the entrance of the bride, and the theme from the original Star Trek for the recessional. Afterward there was a reception DJ'ed by none other than Lauren, and a live set from Original Sound Trash. (She'd ended up in charge of all the music, start to finish.)

Not gonna' lie, the set could have gone way better. Though Chad and Sheri are fans of our music, it seemed most of the guests were not. Apparently our punk-accented indie rock did not please the elderly relatives which comprised most of the crowd. Only a few people, all young folks, gave us a positive reaction. A couple songs in we got asked to turn it down, and then we had to wrap it up a few songs early because we were getting on elderly nerves. Which I admit is perhaps somewhat understandable, elderly ears being attuned to different frequencies than those of youths, but it still annoyed.

The dance music was good though, and all parties came out ahead: the old folks (and possibly anyone who actually knew how to dance) got to laugh at us nerdy young folks and our spastic microseisms, our micro-seizures, while we nerdy young folks got to (somewhat rhythmically) step and twitch the hours away. It was more exercise than any of us will probably get all year. I was still a little bit sore from it this morning.

Finally, I get a month off of work starting after work this Friday. Lauren and I are gonna' try to get a full-length album recorded, mastered, and minted in that time, so wish us luck! If you happen to know of any professional studios in the Portland area that are both good and cheap, let us know!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

That was quick

I collect projects. It's true: right now I'm trying to teach myself enough about electronics to be a successful hobbyist, trying to learn Norwegian (forstår du norsk?), writing two novels, setting up a small business with a friend, making a touchscreen table and a touchscreen picture frame, and putting together a portable recording studio. Some of these projects have stalled out (I haven't touched the small business in about a year, it seems) and yet others seem to be going strong. It's funny how the things you're *really* interested in seem to get done much more quickly than the things you *should* be interested in. (Wait, "should be?" Damnable dutiful Puritan ideals.)

The portable studio is pretty much bought already. At least, its roots are. The day after I posted about the MacBook I went back onto Craigslist and found a better laptop for only $400. Went down to Portland and bought it the same day. It's a PC but it has a Firewire port so I figure it'll work.

I did some more research and found out that a lot of people had problems with the MOTU audio interface recommended in that almost 8 years old article linked to in my last post. I dug a little deeper and discovered the RME Fireface 800: a firewire audio interface with better specs than the MOTU unit and not a bad review in sight. A new unit carries a $1,699 price tag but I managed to snipe an eBay auction for a used one at $925.

After that I got a pair of used AKG headphones for $89.95 and a Rode NT1A small diaphragm condenser microphone for $192. ($229 if I'd bought it new.)

Two days and somewhere around $1,607 later I'm more or less broke but pretty much set as far as my portable studio project goes. I still want to get Cubase 5 ($499) but I'm gonna' have to wait on that until after Lauren and I get that CD professionally recorded. (I *did* save a decent amount for that!)

I'll get something recorded and up here once all the pieces arrive.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Focus (again)

I'm thinking about building a cheaper version of this once I get all my other projects put together.

There's a MacBook for sale on Craigslist for $600 which I hope to make the first piece of my version of that portable studio. I also hope to tap some of the talent at Fox for some sick recordings once school resumes this Fall. I really, really want to do a cover of "Sunglasses At Night" with a real orchestra! :-D

Hellz yeah!

In the meantime, my "box 'o sound" project has stalled as I contemplate how very, very wrong my design was. That glare is impossible to get rid of! I'm planning on starting over. I'm just waiting for my next paycheck to roll in so I can feel less bad about buying more things. I already have the picture frame and floodlight I plan to use. All I need now are a webcam, a light socket, some heater cord, a wall plug, and a frame (of the non-picture variety) of some sort to mount everything to. I'm thinking it'll end up looking something like the picture to the right, only classier.

I'll let you know how this next attempt goes once I know for sure how much is on my next paycheck and get a chance to try things out.

On a more positive note, my touchscreen table project seems to be moving along nicely. I finally got the mirrors set. Now I just need to get a projector mount and figure out how to make it work with the rest of my table...

Okay, and the reason I titled this post "focus" is because I have realized I really need to start *focusing* on a few important things rather than just chasing around everything and wasting a bunch of time. I've started working out (just push-ups and sit-ups on the floor of my apartment, but hey, waddya' want?) and it kinda' occurred to me today (as I was trying to get my atrophied muscles to obey me) that I rarely focus in on the moment at hand, or the task(s) at hand, that my mind is often racing ahead and wandering down paths of possibility. While this usually makes life infinitely more interesting for myself, it kinda' also means I miss out on a lot of things in the present. More applicably it really makes it harder to do push-ups when you're also trying to contemplate the way the media shapes gender relations (and how it has probably directly led to the upper-body exercises you're presently straining to get through).

Y'know what I'm talking about, right? (Okay, at least pretend you know what I'm talking about.)

So I'm gonna' try to figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life and focus.

Like a candle flame.

I'm feeling all Buddhist or something all of a sudden. Zen. I dunno. There's a Batman Begins reference in there somewhere, but it's 11:30 and I should be going to bed soon. I'm gonna' try to keep this blog going but obviously that's hard for me. It might help if you let me know what you want to hear. Seriously, I'm still having trouble grasping this "blogging" thing, probably because I don't actually read blogs all that much. Less navel gazing, more "here's what I did today?" Okay, let me know. Otherwise you get what you get and (enter Jewish mother mode) you'll have no-one to blame but yourself!

Take care, dear readers! I'll see you when I see you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Of Coffee Shops and Weddings

I've been spending a lot of time in coffee shops recently due to there being no internet at my apartment. It's given me the chance to listen in on conversations and think about human nature a bit. In Newberg the human scene is definitely of a particular kind. Here is a paraphrased exchange (or rather monologue; the man was rather silent for the most part) I once heard in one of the shops:

"That's why I locked myself in my room for a couple of hours with my Christian music turned up. I could feel the devil attacking me, just weighing down on my soul; I had to rebuke him and so I just lay there on my bed with my music up until I felt the feeling pass."

(She looks around the coffee shop to see if anyone has heard her discussing these things)

"And I know I'm under attack, even at church. I know they want to get rid of me because I push the envelope. I'm trying to get things changed and they want me to toe the line."

(She looks around again.)

Everyone wants to feel special. I know it doesn't take an anthropologist (or psychologist) to figure that one out. We each have ways of making ourselves feel special. For some people it's religion. These are the people who go on and on about how screwed up the world is and how they want to save it through Jesus. They don't want to save it through Jesus. They want to save it for themselves, for their own ego. Then there are the people who find it in music. You can pretty much replace the word "Jesus" with "music" in the preceding sentences and get their marching rhythm.

I'm playing at a wedding next week. It's for a couple of awesome friends, my band's #1 fans. They're having us play some very specialized music. I don't want to give any spoilers so I'm not going to divulge the pieces, but they fit the pair really, really well. They are icons for what makes them special.

I've been messing around on guitar recently. I haven't written or recorded anything in a while but I'm hoping to get some things together once my internet connection arrives this Sunday. Summer always seems to bring a special mood of creativity upon me and I think this year's season will bring with it a bumper crop. I've begun work on a second novel and it's exciting to me. I'm trying to carve out something the way Stephen Bloom from The Brothers Bloom carved out his cons, "the way dead Russians write novels, with thematic arcs and embedded symbolism and shit." I've also had a bunch of song ideas, which I need to write down. (This morning I came up with two full songs, but I haven't written them down and may forget them... hopefully I won't forget them! :-p)

Friday, June 4, 2010

*scuttle scuttle*

Hi guys. No, I haven't died. No, I didn't forget about you. I've just been super-duper-really-busy and I've never been good at keeping blogs going anyway. I'm quiet and private by nature so the whole idea of taking time out to broadcast my thoughts and doings to the world has always been a weird one for me. Why should you care about what I've been up to? Maybe I'll understand some day, but for now I'll just take it on faith that you are annoyed at me for not updating my blog in almost a month. For this I apologize! *dramatic bow*

Okay, so that's out of the way. What now? Oh yes, my job. My job has been taking up my life. I'm not sure how this is going to work. I worked a little over 14 hours yesterday. 14 hours! They keep saying that as soon as this website is pushed out then things will go back to the usual 8am to 5pm, and I admit that was the case today, but... oi.

On the other hand I have money now. Which means I can buy things like recording equipment. Which means I can start playing around with music more and you might get to hear some!

Oh, you want an explanation about the change in blog title, don't you? In case you haven't been reading Lauren's blog (which you should, as she's a good writer and updates far more often than me) the tour has been ixnayed. Basically it came down to us running around, waving our hands in the air, and screaming, "Oh crap, we have a month to go and there's NOTHING IN PLACE!" No venues. No shows. No (okay, not enough) money.

Alright, that was a lie. What actually happened was we sat down like the responsible adults we are, analyzed the situation, and realized we ought to have an album before we do any sort of tour. (Hmm.. maybe that's a lie too. But the truth's somewhere in the middle, I guarantee it.) So the plan as of now is this: I still take off the month I've obtained and we spend it (and our money saved thus far) recording an album and doing shows in the northwest (or maybe just Portland, I'm a little fuzzy on scope.)

Umm... okay, I have to stop writing now, gracious reader. So... here's a picture of a cat.


Thank you, come again!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A brief update

Worked another 11 hour day today. Crashing at the same place I was crashing last week. Moving into my new apartment on the 19th!

A few tips:
1. Every man should own a pair of girl pants.
2. Being homeless(ish) sucks.
3. Professional photographers take snazzy photos.

Okay, I go to sleep now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Epic busy-ness

Oi. Looking forward to the weekend. Just finished working an 11 hour day. It was intense. We're trying to get a beta ready before Monday. I don't intend to work this weekend so I'm trying to get all my tasks done before then. Thus the 11 hour day.

In other, more awesome news, we have received word that a friend of Lauren's in Oklahoma is putting on her own rendition of Night of the Living Soundtrash sometime soon, complete with an orchestra! I am very stoked and want to see it badly! Perhaps I can get some time off work...?

Also, for you Portlanders, May 23rd we're playing at the Someday Lounge! Buy tickets online. If you need the link, message me!

More details to come.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tentative Tour Timespan

Okay, so I've got June 26th through July 25th off. We'll probably start out on the road the evening of June 25th, though that's just a guess I'm making right now.

Now we just have to get the performance locations and dates.

Comment if you want to see us perform!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The compromise (part 2)

Today I went to work at around 9am, ground some coffee beans, had some coffee, got really, really buzzed because I never have coffee, waited around until people who needed to be there in order for me to proceed arrived, got some actual work done, signed some forms, and then spoke with the CEO and his partner.

There were vague allusions to glittering mountains of wealth somewhere off in the distance. For all the misty wording I begin to wonder if those craggy peaks are not, in fact, illusions. Nonetheless I find myself enjoying things there on the whole and having a three year finish line of sorts makes it all seem less monotonous.

Now for the important part.

"Yes, I think that's reasonable," said the partner.

With that it was decided: I am to work full-time starting May 3rd until sometime in June. Then I am free to go on rock tour for one month. After that it's back to work.

If you want us in your state, speak now or forever hold your peace. It may never be again that we come out your way, and it will almost certainly be a few years if we do.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The compromise (part 1)

I talked with the CEO of the startup I work for about the compromise. After reminding him that I would be working through May until sometime in June, I asked if I could start full-time sometime in July.

"Yes, I think that will work. I'll have to check with my partner, but that should be fine."

So it looks like I'm going to be able to do both the tour and keep my job! Now this means that the tour is only going to be a month long (as we have to be in Oregon this June to play at a friend's wedding and we really will need a month or so to get things set up before we set out) so we'll have to cut down the number of states we go to. This means that if you want us to do a show in your area, you're going to have to speak up!

As it is, I'm pretty happy with the arrangement. :-)

Part 2 comes this Sunday when the other partner has his say.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Commitment

I am pondering commitment.

Is it better to go on a rock tour, or to work somewhere three years and never have to work again? If I could see the possible futures this would be easier. However, as Yoda said: "Always in motion, the future is." :-3

So do I go or do I not?

"Wait a minute," I can hear you say, "I thought you made your mind up in a little post called 'Motivation.'"

Why yes, my droogs, I did. But now it has been un-made by a recent conversation with my band-mate. What, I wonder, should I do? I've been told to re-think my decision. And now I must ask: am I a man of my word or am I for sale? What a price though: a life of freedom for only three years, a rock tour, and a broken promise.

So which of these do I rez, my droogies? Yes, which indeed.

I am going to watch The Tale of Zatoichi and ponder.

Perhaps I can find a middle ground. And if not?

O, what is to come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lauren is awesome!

Go look at the pictures she posted of us with our soap:
http://trashrocktour.blogspot.com/2010/04/soap-henge.html

Want some of the soap? Join our street team! (Yes, it's a low-down bribe; take it please?)

Just tell us if you're interested in us coming to your town, clue us in to the music scene there, and not only will we love you lots forever and ever, but we will also (if you but send us your address) ship you a box of awesome OST goodies (like the soap in the above blog, for example, and/or a t-shirt, and Vishnu knows what else!) We guarantee it'll be awesome.

Finally, let me just say: T.G.I.S.

No more cubicle until Friday! :-)

P.S.
The soap is vegan.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today was interesting.

I was sitting in my cubicle at work, coding away. My boss was listening to a techno station with his door open. It wasn't bad stuff, so I was kinda' nodding along to it. Then a remix of Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" came on. No sooner had I thought "huh, I'm going to San Francisco this summer... wonder if I should wear some flowers..." than my boss began singing along. Except a few of the lyrics were a bit different from how I remembered:

"If you're going to San Francisco
You're going to see Ryan with his band
When he gets back from San Francisco
He'll find his job has been given away!

"If you're going to San Francisco
You'll see Ryan on the sidewalk
In a cardboard box with a piano
Be sure to wave as you pass him in your car..."

Yeah.

Then later he said he'd told his wife about me and she'd said "kids these days just don't get it!"

"No, my good sir," I wanted to say, "it would seem to be you who does not 'get it.'"

Ah well.

"If you're going to San Francisco..."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Motivation

I'm sitting in the back of the Coffee Cottage right now as another band sets up. It's a cozy venue which lives up to the designation "cottage." The place feels like it was a house years ago, before its enterprising owner tore down the walls between rooms, put up Christmas lights in the arches, and began selling coffee.

I'm sitting here listening to this band do sound check, and I have to say they sound good. It makes my artist come out, the person I often hide, the person I forget I also am sometimes. When this happens I start doing silly things, like writing poetry. Or blogs. :-)

I came here to write on that novel I'd mentioned earlier. That was before I knew there was a band playing.

Artist overload.

Today was a hard day of work. It was hard because I enjoyed it. It was hard because my boss told me if I called off the rock tour and just stayed with them for the next three years, until they sold, I would never have to work again. It was hard because I believed him. And what would I do then, if I never had to work again?

Well, I'd write music. I'd write poems. I'd write books and essays. I'd try to do something to contribute to this mass of people we call humanity. I have a hope that we can become something greater than we are.

And if he was wrong? If the company failed to sell? If it sold and I got nothing?
Then there's three years gone. And I would either go live as an artist or sell the rest of my life to the status I'd become accustomed to.

Faced with the prospect of multiple millions of dollars just three years down the road, how can I throw it away on a rock tour?

Because if I don't do this, I might become something I don't want to be.
Because if I don't do this, I'll just be back here again three years down the road, perhaps better off financially, perhaps not.
Because I've already said I was going to do this, and if my morality is for sale then how can I lay peaceably on my deathbed with such a betrayal on my mind? For it would be a betrayal: a betrayal of myself and of Lauren, and even if Lauren is alright in the end with it, I couldn't be.

Besides, if I can make a living doing what I would be doing if I didn't have to work, then why not simply do that?

Of course, the question has always been whether I can make a living doing this.
That's been my question since I was in high school.
That's the question that led me to major in computer science, as nice of a second-best as it's been.

So now I'm in the Coffee Cottage listening to Tango Alpha Tango, ready to add my voice to the discussion, to add my bit of spitting, sputtering fire to the hearth. Because the forward motion of humanity (whatever it is) is the thing that matters.

O come, o come... but it'll be here soon enough, I think.

Nevada is a go!

Last night I talked to my roommate from last year. He lives in Nevada. He will likely have his own place this summer. We will be staying there. He also knows the music scene there pretty well.

Nevada is a go.

Also, I'm still working on that silly promotional software. Wednesday I wrote a 7 page paper in one go. Thursday I pretty much just worked on freelancing. Hopefully this evening, some time after work, I'll get a chance to return to the software. I suspect I might end up at a coffee shop somewhere instead though, writing. The second draft of my NaNoWriMo novel's taking a lot longer than I thought it would. (Wait, wait, I'm sensing a pattern here! :-3)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today

Today I thought about tomorrow.
Tomorrow I have to go to work.
I would rather be on rock tour.

O come, o come, thou days of June.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Focus

I feel like it's getting harder to focus on anything besides the Portland-to-Portland Trash Rock Tour in one of its aspects or another. School and work just feel like distractions and if it weren't for the necessity of graduating and the necessity of making money I think I'd rather be without.

Can I just trade places with someone famous? I feel like that's almost the only way to do this sort of thing full-time. I know it's not true, but it's hard not to feel that way sometimes, especially with graduation just around the bend.

Quantity/Quality



Walking back to my car from my friend's apartment where I'd moved to continue my coding spree, I started thinking about marketing and how little I know about it and how heavily what we're trying to do will be affected by our skill with it. Can we pull this off without anyone beyond our hosts and venues knowing about it? Probably. Will it be half as good without people coming to our shows to see us playing? Not at all.

It's the question of quantity and quality that's getting me now. The software I'm writing is going to be great for reaching a large quantity of people in a broad and impersonal sort of way. I guess that's an important part of the marketing mix: getting things out there. On the other hand who might be turned off by it? Who are we shutting out by trying to reach everyone at once? If there's one person who can reach ten other people, isn't it better to forge one strong connection there than to form eleven weak connections with eleven people?

I'm not sure. It's certainly more satisfying. In high school I knew someone who was really into my music. She lived down in Louisiana. She did an art project based on the lyrics to a song I'd written and got all her friends interested. That was easily the happiest moment of my music career at the time.

So the question comes back: quantity or quality?

You know, I can't answer that. I think it's a little of both, but then I always tend toward the "middle path." I guess that's part of what this blog is about: documenting our path every step of the way so you can learn along with us.

Eventually the answers will come.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why I haven't been posting

Last night (or this morning, rather; it was around 2am) I was sitting at my computer working on the MySpace marketing software we'll be using to promote our tour when my mind drifted to thoughts of homework. "Hmm, I have a presentation due on the 13th," I thought. "Isn't that in a couple days? I should probably get started on that sometime."

Ha. Yeah, read the timestamp on this post and you'll get it.

After about 2 hours of frantically pulling together a presentation, I managed to slip into bed at around 4am. This has been more or less my life recently. It does not help that I have started working weekends out in McMinnville.

Today I got a free day, which is why I'm posting. I owe this free day to a chemical spill on my university's campus. They had to shut everything down for about 8 hours while cleanup crews mopped up the (apparently) explosive substance.

I spent today working on the software. (Which might be open-sourced after I'm done; stay tuned kiddies!)

Days before that I was working on getting that drum machine to work. Here's what it looks like as of now:


The newly shiny innards


The difference a 42 watt CFL makes

Yeah, remember that faint, faint glow in the first photos? Wasn't nearly bright enough to illuminate the fiducial marker (the weird blobby thing in the top photo) for the webcam. So I stripped out all my LEDs, went down to the hardware store (wow, I feel manly saying that), grabbed a plug, a heater/lamp cord, and a light socket, soldered the suckers together, plopped a 150 watt equivalent (42 watt actual) CFL into the socket, and put the whole thing in the box.

Unfortunately this created some massive glare on the glass of the picture frame. The webcam couldn't see the fiducial marker behind the giant bright spot. Figuring that if I spread the light more evenly in the box it would help, I lined the inside with aluminum foil, shiny side up. It did help a little, but it still wasn't enough. Then I made an aluminum foil roof for the light bulb, which made it work quite a bit better. Strangely enough it seems that putting the roof on almost reduced the light hitting the fiducial to the point where the webcam can't see it again. There's like this magic angle for the roof where there's enough light escaping and where there's not enough glare to make a huge difference. Most of the surface works fine now, but there's still this one section where the camera tends to lose the marker...

I'm gonna' make it work guys. Really, I am. It's just going to take some time. Once it's happily pumping out beats I'll be sure to get a video up here! Same goes for that software. I'm writing it in PHP and Javascript, a very unorthodox choice for what I'm doing since it's designed to run for only one user at a time per install. However, JQuery and "simple_html_dom" seduced me with their simple, simple syntax and I'm finding the going a lot faster than I thought. I also needed to have something I could operate from the browser on Lauren's iPhone. This way I can keep marketing the tour even as we're rolling down the road out in the middle of nowhere.

Okay, that's enough of an update for now, eh?

Happy April 13th.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stress, drums, and weekend projects

Before I start, let me just say how stressed out I am. I am very stressed. In fact, I might just have to keep this post brief because right now there's a little voice in the back of my head saying: "What are you doing? You have two seven page papers and a presentation due next week and that's just for one of your classes, you have freelance work coming due and overdue, you have a rock tour to plan and market with just a month and a half to do it in, you have wedding music to learn, you have personal projects, and I'm sure there's something else I'm forgetting but don't worry, I'll remind you once it's too late to do it."

I'm stressed.

On the other hand I did make this over the weekend:



It does this:



And it glows too:



This is relevant to the shoestring tour, I swear! How? Well, how the heck are we supposed to keep a steady beat without a drummer? Okay, so we could use our internal sense of rhythm, but the audience can't hear that. Hopefully this thing will let us crank out beats and maybe thicken our sound up a bit too.

Of course, I still plan on converting that DDR pad into a gigantic foot operated electronic drum set. In case that doesn't work though, this'll give us a backup plan.

I'll get a build log for this thing up sometime tomorrow, cortisol willing. I don't actually know if it works yet so I hope I'll get a chance to test that out too. If it does, you'll get a video. If it doesn't, you'll get me griping.

[EDIT] This is me griping. I built this thing with the leftover IR LEDs from my multitouch table project, but unfortunately there were not enough to provide sufficient illumination for the camera. I'll try to find a way to get more illumination going and I'll make a new post once I've done so.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Join Our Street Team!

Today we began trying to find recruits for our street teams. The idea is to recruit people a month or two ahead of time in each state we're planning on visiting, as well as each state that expresses interest, to help promote the band and, once we have a booking, the show. Each person that sends us their address and an expression of their interest in bringing us to their town will receive a box of promotional material, such as buttons, t-shirts, and perhaps soap. Anyone uncomfortable with sending their address over the Internet will soon be able to download and print out their own promotional material.

We posted a notes on our Facebook page, MySpace, and tour blogs. We also uploaded a video of us explaining the street team idea to YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. The video is below:



In addition we began taking donations for the tour. You can donate via the buttons on our MySpace, Facebook, or just to the right in my blog sidebar. While the cost of the tour is still nebulous, it is certain that it will be difficult to cover. Any help is appreciated!

Cutting Ties With All Non-Mobile Engagements

One thing's for sure: if you're going to be running around the country for a month or two, you're going to have a hard time keeping any engagements you might have back home. Before I decided I was going on a trash rock tour across the country, I was looking for a job. A couple companies wanted to interview me. My final interview was today.

I was to meet my prospective employers at 1pm in McMinnville, a drive of an hour and a half from Portland. I got there on time only to find out that things were very busy at the company and someone was supposed to have told me not to come. Deciding to make the best of a poor situation, I ate the pizza and berry cobbler offered me and informed them that if they hired me I would not be able to start until sometime in August instead of May like I had originally said. As expected, they told me that they would probably need someone sooner, but they might still need someone in August and they'd let me know if that turned out to be the case.

"Do you have any time limits today?" They asked me.

"No, I pretty much left today open since I didn't know how long this was going to take," I said.

"Well, we've got some paper that needs to be sorted. Would you like to help us out? It'd give us a chance to see what it would be like working with you."

Since there was a chance that there still might be a job for me in August, I obliged. The next hour and a half I spent writing ID numbers on copies of invoices and moving them to various piles. This was interrupted twice, once by an impromptu foosball challenge and again by some words of encouragement from the CEO.

"Nice to see you're putting your college degree to work huh?" He said.

"Ha, yeah."

"I worked as an office assistant right after graduating from Harvard at the top of my class. Someone said the same thing to me. I told them, 'how can I be trusted to run the company if I can't be trusted to make a few photocopies?'"

I nodded. They who are faithful in little things are also faithful in much. I went back to my work until one of the programmers called me out to look at some of the code with him. We did some debugging for another hour and a half before he decided they'd kept me long enough. Before I left though we went back to the break room for more berry cobbler. As I was washing my cutlery, the CEO came in.

"Ryan worked for an hour and a half on the refund and helped me debug for another hour and a half." I heard one of the programmers say.

"Really?" The CEO sounded impressed. "So what's this about not being able to start until August? What's going on with your schedule?"

"Well," I said, turning to the body-building Harvard graduate, "my band is going on tour in June and we probably won't be getting back until sometime in August."

"Band?"

"Yeah." His face seemed frozen; it was hard to tell what he thought just yet.

"Okay, so who's financing this?"

"We are. I make enough money freelancing online and we have a bit of money saved up. Should be enough to cover the cost. I figure I might as well be a little irresponsible before I have to go be responsible again."

The man rolled his eyes and walked out. As he left, he called back down the hall: "Well, I hope you know while you're being irresponsible we may not have a position for you in August."

"That's legit," I called back. The man laughed as he always did when I said "legit." He was an attorney by training and had never heard anyone else use that word as a synonym for "fine."

I left feeling pretty good: I managed to impress my prospective employers and then turn them down with my trash rock plans. It was funny, looking back. I imagine the CEO of that company couldn't understand why anyone would willingly throw away a chance at a stable job with a nice income. Perhaps he wrote me off as just another kid with naive dreams. I know that if I don't take this time to run off and try my potential I'll never have any peace of mind about it. I guess that's perhaps what he didn't see: I'm not wasting my potential. I'm testing it. I'm proving it.

Still, I want to vindicate myself of his derision. I want to come back flush with a successful tour, a solid fan base. I want to be a rock star.

Will you help make it happen?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How To Roll Your Own Coast-To-Coast Broke College Student Rock Tour

== THE EXPLANATION ==
This is a build log. If you're addicted to Instructables like I am, you'll know what that means. In case you don't, a build log is a record of the construction of a project from beginning to end so that, in theory, someone else could come along and duplicate your results. I hope to make this a bit more entertaining than most build logs, but that's essentially what this is. A build log for a shoestring budget, coast-to-coast rock tour.

== THE NEED ==
The idea for this rock tour came from a conversation between Lauren and I after our physics class. I'd been dreading the end of the school year as it meant I would finally have to get a job sitting at a desk. I'd learned shortly after my sophomore year that I *hate* sitting at a desk. Ironically this was exactly what I'd spent most of my formative years preparing for.

So as Lauren and I talked after our physics class, she brought up this genre of literature called "schtick lit." It's literature based on some sort of gimmick or personal project enacted by the author. For example, the book "High School Confidential," about the experiences of a recent college graduate who goes back to high school, is "schtick lit." She also mentioned a sign that'd been hung on the door at her work which read "If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do differently today?" Or something to that effect. She came up with a laundry list. I too came up with a laundry list. The thing about living responsibly is that it tends to screw today for the sake of tomorrow. This is not necessarily bad. However it occurred to me that I was living my life almost entirely for tomorrow and if I continued on that path I would have one unhappy deathbed.

Last summer Lauren and I had been talking about going to Norway for a short tour. I have a friend with some family there and we figured we could stay with them. This fell through. Now the idea of a tour came up again. This time it was a lot more attractive. We'd seen a Kimya Dawson concert the night before. She had stayed with friends on her tours. Suddenly it all seemed very, very possible. We planned.

== THE PLAN ==
First we sat down together and pooled all the people we knew in other states. This gave us a continuous path from Portland to Las Vegas. Then we went onto CouchSurfing.com to check for places to stay. That gave us a continuous path from Portland to a friend in New York, up into Canada, down to a friend in Montana, back down through Washington, and home again. The path isn't quite set yet and we have a lot of marketing to do and phone calls to make, but we figured the trip would probably take around 6,000 miles as a whole. Since my car gets 21 miles to the gallon, and since gas will probably be somewhere around $3 a gallon this summer, we figured
6000/21*3 = $857.14
was a good estimate for how much gas will cost us. I'm rounding it up to $1000 just to be safe. (This is when I started wishing I had a bio-diesel car!)

As we're thinking Lauren's boyfriend, Steve, may be coming along to film everything, there should be around 3 of us. We're thinking we may take somewhere around two months for the tour, so with $20 for food per person per day:
20*60*3 = $3600

(And that's when I started wishing we were like plants, getting our food from the sun.) Realistically we won't need $20 every day for food, but it's always better to over-prepare.

Total cost for this two month trip seems to be around $4600 in the worst case.
The best case would be if we're able to mooch two meals a day, or the equivalent, off the people we stay with. That would bring food costs down to $1200 for a best case of around $2200. In the case of friends this could realistically happen. I'm not sure about the strangers we'll be staying with from Utah on though.

But still, for two months of living expenses for three people that's not too shabby!

As a freelance web developer I'm able to make around $200 a week in a good week, $100 a week in a bad one. Assuming bad weeks come as often as good ones and assuming I continue freelancing while we're on the road, that should bring in around
150*8 = $1200
for the whole trip. So there's my food in the worst case scenario. I already have close to $1000 socked away, so there's the entire cost of the trip in the best case scenario. (The best case scenario is downright starry eyed, mind you!)

We also plan on selling merchandise on the road, including Sound Trash soap! Not sure how much that'll bring in, but hopefully it'll pay for a few meals. Also, I hope to get a donation box up soon so our fans can help us get to their home states via the Interwebs.

It's been exciting so far. We've gotten a lot of support from our friends and family, with various people offering to help out. This summer's going to rock.

I'll keep you posted on further developments. :-)