Tag Archives: Rants

My new song


So… the first thing you might be thinking is, “If this post is about a new song, why is it illustrated by a picture of a bunch of ukulele?” Gosh, I’m glad you asked!

It’s because it’s not only the first song I’ve completed in way too long, it’s the first one I’ve ever written on my Ohana sopranino. The sopranino is at the far left in the pic. It was the best shot I could find of the little guy. (Because I didn’t want to mess with taking another one, that’s why!)

In any event, I finished the song about 5 or so days ago, took the time to learn it (yes, they are two different processes), and got a recording of it. For you “tl;dr” folks the recording is just below, you can probably see it scrolling up by now. Under that is the strange, circuitous route I had to travel to get it out in the wild. I wrote it up for the rest of you.

(Though come to think about it, I speak in paragraphs. I can’t fathom why a tl;dr sort of person would follow me online in the first place. <shrug> )

So here’s my brand new tune, a light and hopefully humorous rant on aging. If you like it, please leave a comment and share it with your friends on the social media things. If you think it sucks, go ahead and leave a comment and then share it with your enemies on social media. It’ll serve them bastards right, eh?

The Process

I had decided that I’d do a Digital Demo Tape level recording, strictly using only program(s) I could run on my somewhat aging Samsung Tab E. I got one take several days ago, but wasn’t quite happy with the result. Turns out that the two apps I used for the actual recording had strengths and weaknesses and I needed to play to the former in order to make up for the latter. I reshot the vocal (the ukulele and harmonica tracks were saveable) so the process looked like this.

  • Record the tracks using the J4T Multi-track Recorder app
  • Export each track as a separate file (you can do it quickly and easily in one process in this app. It does more than the cassette 4-track I recorded my first release on, way back in the early 90’s. Further, that cassette unit cost me $400 back then, while a few years ago I picked up J4T for $3.99.)
  • Import them, one at a time, into the Lexis Audio Editor (a free android app similar to Audacity, which does not run on android.)
  • EQ and add any track-specific effects. I kept it pretty sparse, only adding a pale wash of reverb to the vox and harmonica, and a really spare slapback echo to the uke in order to “thicken” it a tad. I also normalized them so that I had some volume to work with whilst mixing.
  • Re-import the altered tracks to J4T
  • Mix down to one stereo track
  • Reimport into Lexis (Getting dizzy yet?)
  • Trim, add the fade-out, a light touch of compression, and normalize
  • Save it and import it into Audio MP3 Editor. Another free app which does several things including transcoding, cutting/trimming, making ringtones, etc.
  • Transcode from WAV to MP3 format and add metatags
  • Done. Raise a big cheer!

But wait! Now we come to the first of the tech bombs.

Tech Bomb 1

Now that I have a finished recording, I’m going to want to host it somewhere. Oh, look! I have an old and rarely used Soundcloud account. That’s the ticket!

Ummm… did I mention that nowadays I do the greater majority of my computing stuff on my tablet? ‘Cuz that’s going to be important real soon now.

I have both the Soundcloud app and access via web browser.

It turns out that Soundcloud, despite being all about streaming to mobile devices (for all you hip kids), does not allow you to upload a recording from your phone or tablet. Dafuq?

So fine… I pass the recording up to the cloud and fire up my one remaining “general purpose” computer. The problem here is that it’s a 10 year old Dell netbook, running Ubuntu 12.something, an OS upgrade that slowed it way down. Also it doesn’t like my browser.

Despite all that I manage to get the track uploaded to Soundcloud. From my earlier tries on my tablet I know that I can’t get the embed code except from the web version. So I copy the long paragraph of obscure HTML code and paste it into a text document on the Linux box and upload it to the cloud, something I’ve done tons of times before. Then I go to download it onto the tablet so I can embed the player here in WordPress.

Here comes the second tech bomb.

Tech Bomb 2

Despite all past history, neither Google Drive nor my tablet will open the text file, they’re all saying “I don’t recognize the file type.” OMFG! It’s a plain text file, ffs! Who’s Wheaties did I pee on to make the tech gods so angry with me?


I’ll just open the file on my netbook and laboriously type it into a note on my tablet. (Using the stylus just so it’s an extra fussy process.)


Now I open up the WordPress app and start a new post, giving it a title, a brief bit of “lorem ipsum…” placeholder text, and copy/paste the embed code in. Then I save it as a draft post so I can view it to make sure the embed actually works.

Oh look. Here comes another tech bomb.

Tech Bomb 3

My WordPress app seems to be broken. It keeps giving me “you’re not permitted to edit nor save” errors. So let’s try it through the web interface. Broken. Instead of the WP login page, I’m getting an empty page with a popup asking for my login credentials. I don’t think so!

Luckily (?) this has happened before. Some eager young beaver at my hosting service has decided my security isn’t tight enough and set the permissions on the WP folder to clear that up. Locking me out in the process. They’re actually pretty good about fixing fuckups, whether mine or theirs, so this one was cleared up within a few hours of me sending the email.

Leaving me with one final tech bomb. (sigh)

Tech Bomb 4

Remember that vast paragraph of embed code from Soundcloud? Didn’t work. Fortuneately I remembered that WP has a shortcode for Soundcloud. It works. That’s why you can see the player up there and, hopefully, play my new song.

So here I sit, finishing up the last of this blog post. Please remember that sharing is caring! If you share my stuff around, it’s better than a dollar in my tip bucket. And it only costs you a few minutes time.

Thanks much for your patience. Hopefully my next song (or video or whatever) won’t be so long coming

The Last Post (no Chorus)

The time has come to say goodbye to Facebook. The reasons are many and varied but, to avoid going off on a full-blown rant, I’ll just state the main ones.

  • Return on Investment: When you consider the amount of time and effort I put into FB, the payback is just miniscule.
  • Hate and Discontent: My stream got clogged with hate speech, mainly coming from the far left. Judicious blocking didn’t help, as particularly vile memes seem to get spread by more people than I could get a handle on.
  • What’s In A Name?: Despite following FB’s instructions — “just use the name most people call you” — what they really meant was “use a name that white nerd bros won’t question.” Everybody calls me Hobbit. So when the happy little douchebag turned me in to the FB name police, I suddenly found all my comments, photos, etc. tagged with the wrong name. I didn’t work so hard establishing the “Hobbit brand” (such as it is) to let it be fucked up by a bunch of greedy cube trolls.

This is not one of those drama queen (fake) exits. I’m not mad at anyone particularly. I’m not leaving in a huff, just with a sigh of relief. So I’m not looking for a bunch of “aw, please stay!” comments, because I can’t log back in to respond to them anyway. It takes two weeks before FB finally decides you’re serious about leaving, and if you log in at any time in that period they figure you didn’t really mean it, so you keep getting the spam from them.

That being said, I would appreciate if you shared this around a bit. I have no idea how many of you that FB will allow to see this, and I’d like anyone who does want to keep up with my misadventures to know where to find me.

There are many of you that I will miss interacting with but you’re all welcome to contact and/or keep track of me from my own site, www.howlinhobbit.com. I’m still on G+ and Twitter as well.

Amusing Final Note: I’ve had this post nearly done for over a week and I haven’t logged into FB for several weeks. They’ve sent me a ridiculous amount of “didja see this?” notifications in that time. They’re apparently channeling Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or something, because it has sure felt like being stalked.

I’m going to push the button now and start cleaning FB off of my tablet, etc. Be well, all!

High Tech Hell

angry boy blowing steam
source: pathdoc/fotalia

There’s nothing like a little cascading failure to keep the blood pressure up.

Some months back the WordPress app I use on my tablet started misbehaving. At first it was simply a matter of the preview function. If you were working on a draft post and wanted to check out how it looked in the browser it would, for whatever bizarre reason, try to find it on the server. Since it was a draft, the server had no idea what you were looking for and sent out a 404 error. This was annoying, but could be gotten around with only a moderate hassle. As the problem had started directly after an upgrade I figured it was just an “oops!” at the coding end and waited patiently for the WordPress folks to fix it. They’re pretty good about such things.

But time passed, and several updates too, with no joy in Mudville. I found myself moving into the semi-patient realm rather quickly. I started posting only new gigs on my calendar. It’s handled by a plug-in called GigPress and it has to be run from the browser since the app doesn’t really recognize it.

And then, the pictures (from the posts that had them) stopped appearing in the preview post listings in the app. They were still appearing on the website itself, so there’s that I guess, but my cussing increased. Weren’t computers supposed to ease our workaday world? Then why was I wasting so much time just trying to keep the tech up and running? Not to mention useful.

The final straw… or what I thought was the final straw, was when it decided it couldn’t save to the server anymore. At all. Just locally. I pretty much put the whole idea on the back burner, hoping I’d calm down enough to dig in and fix it later.

So time passes and I notice a friend of mine has announced a little local tour of house concerts. There are 4 or 5 of them lined up in less than a week. I’m wanting house concerts, bigtime. So I wrote him for advice on how to get hooked up with the scene. He told me no problem, send along my contact details and he’d pass them along to the folk he knows who host house concerts (and, I’m assuming, would like the style of stuff I do). Bless his little cotton socks!

So I go check out the Hobbit & Hare page to make sure there’s no egregious mistakes on it and, lo!… my entire site is hosed. Absolutely none of the fancy page formatting was coming through. It looked like a web page from the early 90’s. Argh!

Nope. That wasn’t the last straw yet.

I thought I’d just login to my hosted control center and see if I could figure it out from there, but either something had gotten goobered up at the server end or I’d forgotten my login details. I was betting on the latter but it turned out to be a little bit of both. Got that adjusted but nothing looked amiss from there.

In the meantime some of the problems were taken care of by simply upgrading WordPress itself. But that’s the place where the login was goobered up by someone other than me. So we go through the “reset password dance” there. Twice. Now many of the problems have gone bye-bye, as well as many hours taking care of all this crap. Not all of the WordPress app problems, mind you, and I was still left with a site that looked like something from the 90’s.

While I’m poking about in the WordPress dashboard I go to my Themes section, thinking maybe a setting in the theme I’m using got messed up. (Themes are what make the WordPress pages look all pretty.) Nothing was apparent in that department, but I had a half dozen or so other themes installed so, just for grins, I chose another and activated it. It worked! It didn’t work exactly well since I’d set the site up for a whole ‘nother theme and the feature set didn’t match but, OMG! there was light at the end of the tunnel. So after an hour or so searching and testing out different themes, I found one that was visually very close to the hosed one. Now I’m up to like 98% working. And the angels did sing.

There were (and probably still are) some funky stuff going on with a few of the links, but I’ve figured out how to fix the vital ones and am now reasonably comfortable sending my contact info and trying for some of those house concerts. And after only most of one day troubleshooting.

Did I mention Argh!?

I guess the last test is to publish this post and hope that the Publicize thing I have running auto shares it with my Facebook and G+ pages (like it’s supposed to). It looks like it’s still set up correctly, but there’s really only one way to check so…

…Push the button, Frank.

(Edited to add: Nope, didn’t share. I think I have that fixed now, so I’ll manually get this one shared and do another test post later.)

In The Immortal Words Of Han Solo

don’t do this!

This past Sunday I did a class A “screw the pooch” maneuver. I could’ve avoided it altogether if I’d just paid attention to the terse advice Han gave to Luke way back in that first Star Wars movie. But I’m getting somewhat ahead of the story. It went something like this…

Until the Monday previous to this tale, the winter busking had been nearly entirely dismal. We (Hobbit & Hare) kept hoping for a sign that busking season had opened up, but we were barely getting blips on the proverbial graph. That Monday, for the first time this year, we managed to cross $50 each for a two set day. Our Thursday was a trifle lame, but on Friday we did slightly better than Monday. Excitement ensued. We decided that, with the holiday weekend and all, we’d give a try Sunday at Pike Place Market to see what we could do.

Turns out we could do surprisingly well. We got there in time to claim the 10am slot at our favorite busking spot, the Joe Desimone Bridge. For the first 30 minutes of our allotted hour the money was coming in at a very nice pace. Then, around the 35 minute mark, I broke a string.

Were I still playing guitar, that would be no big problem. As long as I had a replacement string, or the string broke at the bridge and I had space to repair it, I could be up and flying in 5 minutes or so. A ukulele’s nylon strings take a day or so to settle in. The busking day was over.

Fortunately, ukulele strings don’t break very often. I think this string was like number 12 in the 14 or so years I’ve been seriously banging on the uke. I had busking weeks with guitar where I broke more than 12 strings. Unfortunately, that leads to a false sense of security on the subject. And it’s right there that the poor old pooch got it.

See, I own 2 nice acoustic ukulele and 2 that I can plug into a sound system. I bought the second of each type specifically because I was concerned that when the rare string broke, it’d be barely into one of my paid shows. If you suddenly have to stop the show when busking it’s a bummer. If that happens at a paid gig you’ve managed to not only put a black mark on the ol’ reputation, but also to spoil someone else’s special event.

That’s a Bozo No No, Timmy.

Since I was so laser focussed on the paid gig aspect, and one of my constant rules in busking is to carry the least amount of gear possible, I let the overconfidence take charge and didn’t carry the spare on busking jaunts.

In short, I didn’t listen to Han when he said:

You can’t really tell how a busking crowd is going to react from one minute to the next, but we were well on track to having a set where each of us cleared $50+ when that string snapped. That’s very disheartening. Especially when it’s the result of your own fuck up.

So I’m going to listen to Han from now on and also to that other philosopher, Blind Blake, who said, “That’ll never happen no more.”