Visual Spacial

Those who say men are better at visual-spacial tasks have never seen women compete in rhythmic gymnastics. The way these ladies handle the apparatus — hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon — proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are just as capable as men, and are equals. This requires just as much proprioceptive capability as aiming a ball at a a goal.

That being said, the United States did not have a contestant in the rhythmic gymnastics competition in Rio Olympics this year, and that’s regrettable. However, girls who have the training and skills in these apparatuses have a handful of venues in the U.S. to use these skills: marching band feature twirlers; alt-music stage performers; Burning Man (and regional burns); fire spinning; side shows; travelling circuses; etcetera.

So don’t tell me women can’t navigate through space as well as men. That’s just incorrect.

Out, Off, Down

The good news is that I survived a layoff event.

The bad news is that I work for a company where laying off 7% of the workforce across the board was the winning option.

I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s one of the inevitabilities of corporate life. But it’s been a long, long time since the last layoff event at my company, and any time I see two managers asking a coworker to have a quick word in private, I get the sick sense that I may be next. After having been laid off twice (from my last employer) and after having been fired for various reasons throughout my life, it’s a safe bet that I get a little nervous around that sort of cubicle dialogue.

All this begs me to consider what’s next in my life.

Tune In, Stream Out

Got modern and bought a teevee. Now I’m a teevee watcher. I’m one of those now. Ah well. But, hey, at least I’ve finally achieved my New Year’s Resolution of 1080p.

Also in the news, “Strange Things” is a great series. Soundtrack’s so good, makes me want to play with my synthesizers, which I’m not doing enough. Weird. Strange.

Work’s got me down, but it is what it is, isn’t it?

I don’t write enough.

Also, Android Marshmallow is smoother and nicer than Android Lollipop. Samsung finally pushed it to my tablet this morning, unexpectedly. “Good morning, we’ve downloaded the latest OS. You should install it!” Now I can install the Facebook app and prevent it from getting access to anything it wants.

“Anything?”

“Anyt’ing!”

I On

  • I am generally pretty negative
  • I am attracted to groups of positive people and hang out with them until another group is more attractive
  • I sometimes move freely between groups if they’re metal enough to let me do so
  • I am known to pass information between groups, but otherwise keep my distance
  • I usually perform useful work for them, which seems to be my one defining trait
  • I do my best work immediately before dropping into a lower state to wait for something external to bring me back up
  • I can never simultaneously know what I’m doing and how well I’m doing it

It’s pretty fucking obvious to me now: I’m an electron.

Deep-Fifty-Fifty

The Roland D-50 is a very popular synthesizer produced in 1987. I found one years ago in a pawn shop and have enjoyed it quite a bit since. Lately I’ve taken to learning a little bit about it so I can actually program the thing instead of relying on the stock patches (some of them cliché by now) to make my nights move along.

The unfortunate thing about the D-50 is that it is monotimbral, playing only 1 patch at a time. Fortunately, Roland designed the synthesis algorithm with two parts (operators) per patch: Upper and Lower. Each part can have a different sound. So in the right control mode, the synth can be split to play bitimbral sound controlled by two different MIDI channels.

Unfortunately, that increases the complexity of programming and makes the manual twice as thick. Fortunately, digital multitracking has made recording medium cheap and there’s no need to play two timbres at once. It’s not like I’m using it to perform on stage (where lugging a stack of synths can be costly). And, really, who wouldn’t want a more lush, thicker sound on a single track?

So tonight I learned some of those complexities, and how to configure the mode to “solo” (monotimbral, monophonic), how to correctly configure portamento so it glides between pitches (portamento on D-50 is weird in non-solo modes), and how to configure some of the basic parameters of a patch. This synth was designed in an era where technology was not cheap, and processing power, memory storage, and performance came at a high cost, monetarily and architecturally, so they had to make clever compromises for their end-users.

What resulted from my learning tonight was a really cool solo whistle sound, mostly square wave and a touch of sampled attack transient with some slippery chorus. A real sprightly sound. Check it out below (I call it “Whistler” and it’s a live, raw recording, so be kind):

I mean, this is really basic stuff I’m learning, baby steps. But I hope to learn more about the particulars of the parts, oscillators, filters, envelopes, etc., really soon. The more familiar I get with this synth, the more joy I’ll get out of it, and joy is where music comes from.

And, yes, in pure synth idiom, earlier I tried to play the solo keyboard part from Emerson Lake & Palmer’s “Lucky Man“, because I sometimes like clichés. Yep.