Author Archive

Electric Turn To Me

I’d like to quickly memorialize an amazing band called Electric Turn To Me. I can’t imagine very many people have heard of them. Have you? I doubt it!

In 2003 The Mars Volta released De-Loused In The Comatorium. This is definitely one of my top ten favourite albums of all time. It totally blew my mind (and still does)!

I recall sometime in 2004 I was in Ditch Records and filed under Mars Volta was a “if you like Mars Volta, try this” note referring me to Electric Turn To Me. (The connection between the two was Blake Flemming.) That is how I discovered the four song self titled Electric Turn To Me EP, so I gave it a try. I was impressed. I started following the band’s website and (I think, back then) their MySpace page.

This was a small indie band from New York City, so I never had a chance to see them play live, and back then YouTube didn’t even exist yet so it’s not like I could find bootleg clips of live shows or anything else online. All I had were four songs on their CD and basically monthly blog posts from afar which told the story of a promising band just starting out.

I was eagerly anticipating the release of their first full length album. I was sure they would make it big (well, for an indie band). One day in October 2005 I routinely visited their site to check on their progress when I was met with the sad news that they had mutually decided to break up the band. :'(

The silver lining was that they decided to release the album that they had “put their heart into for the past year” as a free download for friends and fans. That album was titled Scrape The Sky, and I had to dig pretty deep to find any information about this old .zip file I still have on my hard drive, but I found that it is still available through the Internet Archive.

I also found a good write up about the band.

I got some new headphones recently and have been revisiting the deepest depths of my music collection. I re-discovered ETTM and fell in love with them all over again. Unfortunately this material was only ever released in 128kbps mp3 format, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

RIP, Electric Turn To Me. Perhaps there are others like me out there who miss you too, or perhaps I am your last fan, but regardless, your memory lives on in me! I wrote this so I could more easily share your legacy with others who might enjoy your work too.

Jack-o’-lanterns

Here are some of my pumpkin carving creations over the past 12 years:

A month with the Pentax K-1

Just over a month ago I bought a new camera. It is a Pentax K-1 full frame DSLR. My previous camera, a Pentax K20D, was over 8 years old.

Bee

I was an early adopter of the K20D when it was released and was thinking I’d wait for price breaks and firmware updates before buying a K-1. Surely after being happy with the K20D for 8 years I could wait a little while longer, right? Haha… nope!

The K-1 is such a HUGE step up from the K20D that I couldn’t resist. Even though the first shipment was sold out everywhere I stumbled upon one that had been put on hold and never picked up, and the store was happy to sell it to me, so I pulled the trigger. I’m sure glad that I did! This camera has really sparked a renewed interest in photography and in the past month I’ve taken hundreds of amazing photos.

Alice Dog

Below is my basic impressions/review after one month of normal everyday use.

Likes
– Image quality, obviously: high resolution, incredible dynamic range, high ISO noise performance.
– Screw drive AF motor greatly improved.
– AF accuracy greatly improved.

Neutral
– No physical SR on/off button (I’m slowly getting used to this, but I have turned it off and forgotten to turn it back on a few times).
– The 3rd “function” dial is much stiffer to turn than I would expect. On paper it seems like an innovative idea but in reality I almost never use it.
– No on-board flash (doesn’t matter most of the time as I have an external flash, but having an on-board flash has saved me in the past).

Dislikes
– No AF.C physical button. Turning AF.C on/off is confusing compared to all the other settings. I don’t find the AF selector button on the front of the camera easy to find with my fingers (yet) without looking which means taking my eye out of the viewfinder.
– Smaller/simpler top LCD. It has the basics, but considering how little I use the 3rd “function” dial I’d rather have a larger top screen with more details.
– Not enough customization options for custom buttons, and not able to use AF button as a custom button (ex. if not using rear AF I would like to change this button to toggle between AF.S and AF.C or use it to change AF point selection mode).
– Status screen not turning off after a set timeout period or when bringing the camera up to your face (like bringing a smart phone up to your ear) = I have it permanently disabled.
– Battery life is not great.

Not sure yet
– Pixel shift & astrotracer – I haven’t used these yet, but I’m fairly sure I will like them once I use them!

The bottom line
I was thinking about how to phrase this, and at the end of the day I can say “this camera takes pictures of what I see.” Prior cameras have “taken decent pictures” but not necessarily what I saw… highlights would blow out easily, shadows would be too dark, images wouldn’t appear as detailed or subtle as I saw with my eye. My old cameras have been “tools” (or “toys”) where as this camera seems like an “extension” of my vision/perception of a scene. The dynamic range is so good and the results are so effortless that I just can’t put the camera down! I’ve gotten so many amazing shots (and such a huge percentage of keepers) in the last month. In fact I’ve probably gotten more good shots in the past two weeks than the past two years combined!

Punch Bowl

If you are interested in more details about this camera, you can check out this excellent 25 page in-depth review of the Pentax K-1.

If you want to see more photos that I’ve taken, I set up a Flickr stream with plenty of photos from the new camera.

My Book List

I felt like making a list. Here is my personal “required reading” book list:

  1. Terminal Man, by Michael Crichton
  2. The River God, by Wilbur Smith
  3. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  4. Eon, by Greg Bear
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  6. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  7. Sandman (graphic novels), by Neil Gaiman
  8. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  9. JPod, by Douglas Coupland
  10. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Disney Lego

I recently purchased 18 LEGO Disney series 1 minifigure “blind bags.” Why, you may ask? Because I wanted the Alice in Wonderland and Cheshire Cat minifigs! I was hoping to get duplicates of these, so I could have one of each on my desk at work, and then some for home as well.

I figured I could trade or sell any that I didn’t want, and I also figured when my daughter is old enough for LEGO some of these would be fun for her to play with. I was not trying to collect the whole series, although that thought crossed my mind when I started to realize how difficult it was to find them, even though they were only released a few weeks ago. As an adult, I was still familiar with 16 out of 18 characters. I guess Disney is forever, right?

The reason I’m posting this is to share what I got out of 18 bags:

2 x Stitch
3 x Toy Story Alien
1 x Aladdin
2 x Genie
1 x Maleficent
2 x Alice in Wonderland
2 x Minnie Mouse
1 x Mickey Mouse
1 x Syndrome
1 x Captain Hook
1 x Ursula
1 x Ariel

Now that I have three Toy Story Aliens I’m hoping I can get Buzz Lightyear. I’d like a Peter Pan to go with Captain Hook, and of course I still need the Cheshire Cat. Otherwise I’m pretty happy with what I got, they’re all really cool, especially Ursula and Captain Hook. I’ve sold some of the duplicates and ones that I didn’t want.

Disney Lego Minifigs

Baby Girl

My wife and I just had our first daughter! Her name is Alice. She was born on March 14 at 4:59pm. Since we aren’t Facebookers, I have set up a Baby Blog, a Photo Gallery and a Twitter account for her. It turns out there are a lot of hours between midnight and 6am to do these kinds of things!

AliceAliceAlice

A Series of One Sided Conversations

Once upon a time my wife’s phone broke. A replacement had to be ordered, so she was issued a loaner phone for a week. When we were playing around with it I was surprised to find that the previous user(s) of this phone had not deleted the incoming text message history before returning the loaner to the store. There was no outgoing history, no address book, no photos, but there was a large repository of incoming message history.

This was an older “dumb” (regular?) cellphone so it didn’t have threaded conversations, just a few hundred text messages sorted in chronological order. After reading the first few messages I couldn’t help myself; I was enticed. I couldn’t stop reading it! It was like discovering an exciting new author and not being able to put the book down. I found this interesting for a few reasons:

  • Firstly, for anthropological reasons. It was interesting to see how other people communicate. I had no idea who the sender of the message was (i.e. with no address book there were no aliases for the phone numbers). I didn’t know what their name was, whether they were male or female, young or old, where they were located, etc. Reading the message history was like peering through a one way window into a room full of anonymous strangers.
  • The second reason I found the message history interesting was because there was no sent message history. All of the messages made up only half of the conversations. I had to fill in the blanks. I had to imagine what might have been said (or not said) by the user of the phone between replies.
  • And third, because in most cases the grammar was so atrocious, even by text message standards! Since I didn’t know how many people had used this phone I wondered whether a lot of people communicate like this (i.e. all the friends of dozens of users) or whether only a small population of people (i.e. specific friends of only one or two users) communicate like this.

I decided to transcribe the dialog before we had to return the loaner so I could read it again on a rainy day. Today is that day, and I have it here to share with you too, dear reader! I’ve broken the dialog up into “chapters” so it reads more like a short story, but you can interpret it however you want. Does this hold your attention the way it held mine, or do you get bored and stop reading quickly?

Just to be clear, I didn’t change anything at all except for masking the phone numbers and replacing one hyperlink with “[SPAM].” All grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, symbols and formatting are exactly as it was on the phone. Here it is:

Confessions of a Loaner Phone

Rifflandia 2014 Review / Feedback

After Rifflandia comes “Restlandia” for a few days, then “Reflectlandia” for a week or two, and now I have arrived at “Reviewlandia.” :)

Let me start by saying I have been to Rifflandia four years in a row now, and I attend the music festival because I love music. I suppose a secondary reason for attending would be the local cultural experience, i.e. to support local businesses, try new food options, learn about the sponsors and vendors, bump into friends and acquaintances around town, etc. But mostly I attend because I’m a fan of music. I do not attend Rifflandia to party, or to get drunk, or to stand around chatting with friends the whole time while artists are performing. So, now you know where I’m coming from. Here is my review of my 2014 experience:

Layout:

I liked the Royal Athletic Park (R.A.P.) layout this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the site wide liquor license, but it worked quite well. There was a lot more open space to move around and a lot more area available to sit on the ground. There were more routes available to get from point A to point B and less bottlenecks throughout the field.

Water station placement was too close to the side stage which made it difficult to refill my water bottle when the side stage was busy and overflowing with spectators. I knew where it was though as it’s always generally in the same area, so I didn’t have any problems pushing through the crowd, but I imagine it would be difficult to locate and navigate towards for some people who might not know where it was, or if they were traveling with children or groups, or if they had mobility issues.

The washroom placement was both good and bad. They were in the shade, there were lots of them, and the lineups moved quickly. That said, the staircase used to access them was a horrible bottleneck. To get to the washrooms from the field you had to fight your way up the stairs that were the only way in and out of the stadium. The front gates and security lineup funneled directly to the top of these stairs, with everyone making a return journey from the washrooms merging in with the eager new arrivals making it very difficult to leave the field. Once at the top of the stairs you had to look to both the left and right to determine which washroom area was less busy, causing everyone who finally made it to the top of the stairs to temporarily be in the way of everyone else trying to get down the stairs, thus causing further bottlenecks.

There were a lot of people openly smoking cigarettes in the crowds in front of the stage, in the food lineups, and wandering through the middle of the field. I do not like showing up early for a set to find a perfect spot to stand only to be smoked out when a late comer pushes their way through the crowds with a cigarette in hand. And if I’m standing in a food lineup I can’t just walk away.

(We politely confronted a belligerent smoker in a food lineup who claimed smoking was allowed anywhere since it was outdoors. We did not know the rules. We saw there was a dedicated smoking area, but you had to show ID to get in and couldn’t take alcohol with you. I don’t understand making smokers jump through so many hoops and encouraging them to break the rules. Were they breaking the rules? Was it a non-smoking venue except in designated areas or was it free reign? In BC we’re just used to smokers having to go to designated public areas away from doors, windows, air-intakes, etc so why would they be allowed to smoke in a crowd of thousands of people?)

Whether the people openly smoking in the crowds were under-aged and couldn’t get in to the smoking pit, or didn’t know about the smoking pit, or were just being assholes, I have no idea. I think there should be a zero tolerance policy for smokers and second hand smoke next year. There should be a big sign at the entrance that says smoking is only allowed in the smoking pit. Smokers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get into the smoking pit. Security guards who search packages of cigarettes for drugs should inform the person of the smoking rules and tell them there is a zero tolerance policy for second hand smoke. Anyone caught smoking outside of the smoking pit should have their wristbands immediately removed. Every non-smoker will see the smoking rules when they enter the park so there’s no ambiguity about the rules and no hesitation by non-smokers to report infractions to security staff.

Food & Drink:

There were more picnic benches in the food area this year (yay!) and less congestion because of the lack of beer garden fencing. The lineups seemed to be shorter, or at least moving faster than last year. Maybe I was just lucky at the times I went, or maybe it was because everyone didn’t leave the beer garden at the same time in search of food after a main stage act finished their set. Lots of options, reasonable prices, and a lot of happy faces and full stomachs leaving the food trucks. Other snack/treat options like hand made popsicles and lemonade were a nice touch and reasonably priced too. The little bags of candy were a rip off though.

I was disappointed that the price of beer at the park went up again. It has increased 61.5% over 4 years. If it continues this trend a single plastic cup of local beer will cost $10.50 in 4 years. Not that I ever drank a lot before, but when it’s 27 degrees and sunny for 3 days in a row and beer costs $5 each I’ll have 5-6 in an 8 hour day just to stay hydrated and will hardly feel a buzz. When it costs $6.50 I’ll have 2-3 per day. Maybe that was the point, to cut down on consumption with the site wide liquor license. Oh well, I don’t really care, at least it only went up $0.50 this year instead of $1.00. If it goes up $0.50 or $1.00 next year it might start to feel like a gouge when beer costs as much or more than most food truck entrees.

The speed of the drink ticket lineup and drink pickup lineup was amazing as usual. Staff and volunteers were friendly and efficient. There were tonnes of options for beer, cider and hard lemonade. I’m still struck with a sense of awe each year when see the custom Phillips beer-tap-truck.

Lineup:

I was extremely excited to see The New Pornographers outdoors (“under an embalmed clear sky”), in my hometown, without having to travel to Vancouver or Seattle. That was a dream come true show for me and worth the price of admission by itself. Other than that, I was not very impressed with the lineup this year. Sure, there were a few highlights, but it was definitely the weakest lineup of the past four years in my opinion. I know some people were complaining about this, selling their tickets after the lineup announcement, etc. but I’m not complaining, just reflecting.

Part of the Rifflandia experience is learning about and exploring new artists. Venturing outside of your comfort zone. Becoming a fan of something new. And part of the point of a super pass wrist band is the “choose your own adventure” experience. Depending on your priorities and venue capacities at any given moment it can either be a dream come true show you’ve been waiting for for years, or it can be a “go with the flow and surprise me” experience or a “try before you buy” preview of a band that you are curious about. The format works well for me. I’ve been to a number of subsequent shows and/or bought a number of albums after seeing a band play a short set at Rifflandia. I found a few new artists this year that I will follow in the future.

I could be wrong, or it could be a fluke, but I get the impression that there has been a bit of a shift towards attracting the “young university party crowd” to Rifflandia. This is smart from a business perspective, but waters down the festival a bit for permanent Victoria residents like myself. It just seems like each subsequent year for the past few years has had more Hip Hop and DJ sets than the year before, and not just at night venues but also during the day at Royal Athletic Park. Perhaps this is because Atomique Productions also puts on Rock The Shores in July so there’s a bit of a demographic split between the mid summer crowd and the early September back to school crowd.

I’d rate the lineups in this order:
1. 2011
2. 2012
3. 2013
4. 2014

Although I did not experience it first hand, I’d put 2010 in third place between 2012 and 2013.

Sound Quality:

I’m not entirely sure how to approach the topic of sound quality at Royal Athletic Park. There’s the sound quality in the park and there’s the noise complaints outside the park. Both are important in my opinion because they go hand in hand and I’m not convinced many people really think too deeply about either, let alone at the same time. There were a lot of noise complaints in 2013 and not just from near by residents but also from residents on the other side of town. I was hugely disappointed with the sound in 2013 and totally agreed with people complaining from 10km away. I could barely put up with it inside the park.

This year, off the tip of my tongue, I’m inclined to say it was 100x better! That may be an exageration though. :) Let’s say it was about 10x better in 2014 than 2013, and 5x better than 2012. It was about equal in quality to 2011 with perhaps a slight edge to 2011. Sound quality is important to me because I like to actually hear lyrics and instruments instead of just bass distortion, and it’s also important that the festival doesn’t get shut down due to public outcry or for political reasons. I am not a sound engineer, but I think heavy bass and distortion generates more noise complaints as the sound travels further and because it just sounds like noise rather than music. I don’t think there was any difference at all between peak decibel levels or noise curfews this year; the reason it was better is because the bass wasn’t maxed out. In 2013 it seemed like the bass dial was turned to 10 out of 10 on day one and not adjusted at all for the entire weekend. Whether it was an acoustic set, ten piece rock band or a hip hop / DJ set, the bass was fully maxed out. It’s no surprise there were less noise complaints from residents this year because the sound board was decently run. I hope next year is just as good or better.

At night, I went to ANIÁN and even though it was an open air outdoor venue right next door to Phillips Backyard I didn’t even notice any noise pollution from Phillips. It wasn’t just covered up by increasing the volume at ANIÁN, the actual sound quality was quite good and I was very impressed.

Outside Royal Atheletic Park:

During peak hours (ex. Saturday late afternoon) the lineup to get into the park is so long that people have to walk down the road to get in line because the lineup fills the entire sidewalk. This causes drivers to be frustrated with pedestrians in the middle of the road and creates an unpleasant and unsafe environment while waiting to get inside. It would be nice if the lineup was better managed by staff and maybe roped off so half the sidewalk is lineup and half is navigatable. Better yet, if there were more than two security guards during peak hours, or multiple entrances, maybe the lineup wouldn’t be so long…

Report Card:

R.A.P. Layout – B (would have been an A if not for the washrooms)
Food & Drink – A
Lineup – C
Sound Quality – A

Thanks Rifflandia for another great year! See you all in 2015!