Grant Muller

Goodbye Pro Tools

Last week I waved goodbye to the first piece of pro gear I had ever purchased. My 8 year old Digi001 was sold on eBay for roughly a third of what I originally paid for it, boxed up (in the original box of course) and shipped to its new owner. Hopefully it will be well taken care of.

I had been thinking about selling for a year or so now. It only had 2 mic preamps on it, which means I had to keep my mixer for the extra preamps. It was a PCI interface device with a breakout box, forcing me to use a desktop. Digidesign stopped supporting it something like 5 years ago, which meant I was forbidden from upgrading beyond Pro Tools 6.4. Lastly though, using this interface with other software packages (Live!, Sonar, Max/MSP) was a nightmare. It worked, and thats about it.

Its this last part that made me the angriest. As a software engineer I get to deal with products all the time that will only work on one hardware platform or another, and likewise, software that only works with one hardware type. It drives me apenuts (That word only sounds right when Cary says it). I’m not a huge proponent of cross-platform software or anything, there are compilers for nearly every platform after all, but I am a huge proponent of Plug And Play style devices, which allow me to choose the interface I want to use. I like Pro Tools as much as anyone else, but sometimes I just want to twiddle around with Cubase (it has a much better sequencer), or Live! (for effects work).

So I sold the Digi 001 along with the gear I needed to support it, namely a big ass mixer that was just taking up space.

It’s replacement? I picked up a Presonus FP10. This used to be called a Firepod, it has 8 preamps (goodbye mixer), and connects via firewire (Hello laptop). I can use it with damn near all of my software, and it runs without a computer. Yep, all 8 preamps, through a separate power supply, so its basically a tiny mixer too. So as I start to acquire more Mandalas, I can run them all through this beast for a fully portable electronic/acoustic drum kit. I can also shrink the footprint of my racks and conserve some space in the studio. Everyone wins.

Margaritas – PERFECTED!

Squeeze the limes. Thats the secret. I’ve been working on this for a week now. We went to Catalina Island while on holiday in California and had the best damn margarita we’ve ever had at a little Mexican place on the beach. I don’t recall the name of the place, but I took note of the ingredients in order to replicate it when I got home. Its what I do.

Behold! The recipe:

  • 1 part fresh lime juice (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Squeeze the damn limes. Don’t use the stuff you put on salads, or the Rose’s stuff everyone swears by. Its all HFCS.)
  • 1 part Tequila (preference here…but use a reposado, I like Cuervo 1800)
  • 1/2 part Cointreau (or Triple Sec. I like Cointreau)
  • 1/4 part simple syrup (Optional. its just sugar dissolved in water. Easy)

Part measurement is the best way to do this. I use 2 oz. of lime juice an tequila, 1 oz. Cointreau and a half of simple syrup. For less tang lower the lime juice. Shake it all up in a shaker with some ice (don’t use a blender dammit). Pour it in a glass with a salted rim (optional. The salt part anyway).

My wife is drinking one of these as I write this, thoroughly pleased. You may not agree, and of course you’re welcome to. But its a good start.

Seriously though. Squeeze the limes.

American Gods and running with the dead

So I finally got around to reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman this past winter, and as it turned out I couldn’t have picked better circumstances.

Actually I didn’t so much “read” American Gods as I listened to it. As narrated by George Guidall, who I am convinced is the finest narrator of audio books I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to.

It turns out the story takes place largely in winter, and since this book was to be my running companion for much of the season it turned out to be perfect. Most of the time anyway. Gaiman’s descriptions of the sub-artic temperatures in Lakeside made my balmy “barely freezing” weather that much worse.

The story itself wound its way through much of the midwest into the south, just as I was training for my pre-season marathon here in Atlanta, and the journey quality to the tale in particular made the 2 and 3 hour runs memorable, even enjoyable. I really got a kick out of the final scenes, which took place in Rock City. Anyone who’s live south of the Mason-Dixon has seen the “SEE ROCK CITY” Birdhouse and can certainly relate.

Towards the end of the cold season I found myself running through a confederate graveyard just across the street from my home, just as the protagonist of the story is beaing lead through the ceremony of the dead. What timing. It was about here that I realized how old the city I lived in was, and how much history I was passing as I ran through it. Later I would realize how much history my city has managed to collect in such a short time, when I’m reminded that:

“In England 100 miles is a long way, in America 100 years is a long time”.

It was a nice experience, and I hope to be able to match my book selection and season again in the future. Its a sunny spring day as I write this, and already I’ve swapped Tennessee Whiskey for tequila and lemon and Doc Martens for flip-flops.

As a last note I have yet to read a Neil Gaiman story I haven’t liked. The way he weaves primal myths into everything from sci-fi to road stories is entertaining at least, timeless at best. I think I’ve read Sandman three times now. When my only disappointment with a story is that it has ended, then it was a fine story.

Music to code by

Lately I’ve been having to step back in to writing a lot of code. I used to have no trouble at all concentrating on the task at hand, but for some reason focusing these days is tough. Its probably the vast number of distractions from co-workers needing help with this, that, or the other thing. At any rate, slapping on a Tool album or Captain Beefheart or something like that certainly isn’t going to help matters, so I’ve gone back to my music collection to find some tunes that are “barely there”.

Recommendations:

  • Godspeed! You black emperor – Yanqui U.X.O
  • Pole – 1
  • Basic Channel – Basic Channel
  • Monolake – Momentum
  • Brian Eno – Apollo
  • Pan Sonic – Aaltopirii
  • Autechre – Tri Repetae++
  • Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Vol I and II
  • Aerovane – Tides

All of these albums are pretty linear, with very few quick changes in time signature or tempo. They’d probably work well for relaxing after a rough day at the office. I’ll update this list as I find new tunes to code by.

Imperial India Pale Ale

IIPAWell, I’m not normally very impressed with my own beer but I must say that this one is worth writing home about. This beer had a worthwhile story anyway, and given the number of “learning experiences” I had making it, it really should have turned out tasting like fermented dishwater. At any rate, Here goes:

 

 

07.08.2007 – Brew Day!

Nothing beats waking up late on a Sunday and planning a brew day. It usually takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours to cook up a batch of beer, so I typically start just after lunch. Why not just start first thing in the morning? So I have an excuse to drink a very fine beer that tastes similar to the beer that I am brewing. Behold! Avery Brewing’s Maharaja Imperial India Pale Ale! Avery makes some fantastic beer, and this Summer seasonal was no exception. Their website lists the hops and malt they used, which would have made this one easier to pinpoint had I thought to check it first (poor planning on my part). Had I known I would have used a different set of hops to get that citrus flavor this one is packed full of. Here is my ingredient list and schedule:

Grains & Extracts:

  • 2.5 lbs British Pale Malt
  • 10 lbs Light DME

Hops:

  • 3 oz Cascades @ 5.1 AA for 1.5 hours
  • 1 oz Cascades @ 5.1 AA for 1 hour
  • 2 oz Kent Goldings for 15 min
  • 3 oz Centennial for 15min
  • Dry-hopped at Secondary w/ 1 oz Cascades, 2 oz Kent Goldings, 3 oz Saaz

Yeast:

  • White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale

Schedule:

  1. 1 hr grain steep (add cascades in at 30 min, start 1.5 hour)
  2. Bring to boil
  3. add extracts
  4. bring to boil again
  5. Add hops per time remaining (see above).
  6. Irish Moss added at 15 minutes

I was able to cool this one in under 10 minutes, but alas, no cold break. This one is going to exhibit some chill haze. As usual this went exactly as planned. It was a straightforward brew day where I sit and read or play my guitar relaxing around a boiling pot of proto-beer (wort). At the end of the day I racked the wort into my carboy, pitched in the yeast, and relocated my primary fermenter to somewhere dark and cool to ferment.

07.15.2007 -An Unexpected turn of Events

I had purchased a cheap device to turn my carboy into a upright fermenter, supposedly allowing me to drain off trub when it began to collect at the bottom, and saving me the trouble of racking from primary to secondary. Its called a Fermentap. As usual, my failure to research a product before buying it got me into trouble. Everything seemed to be going nicely until I went to drain off my first batch of trub. Turns out the nozzle had clogged full of…whatever, and refused to drain anything at all. I debated long and hard and finally decided to just forgo the Fermentap system, bottle to secondary, and move on with my life. Personal Endorsement: Don’t bother with the Fermentap.

Before racking over the beer I noticed something very peculiar. I had started with a 6 gallon boil, and after heat evaporation had 5 gallons of beer. Standard. WHY THE HELL ARE THERE ONLY 3 GALLONS OF BEER IN MY CARBOY? I still have no explanation for this. I have never lost more than 1/4 gallon during fermentation due to evaporation or whatever, how do 2 gallons of beer disappear without a trace (fraternity brothers, don’t answer that).

With much chagrin, I dumped it all over to a standard bucket for secondary fermentation and threw in the dry-hop material. This part at least lifted my spirits, I had never dry-hopped a beer before. How exciting. Now to wait three more weeks…

08.05.2007 – Bottling

I hate bottling beer. Believe me when I tell you that bottling is by far the most tedious, filthiest, least fun part of making beer. First you have to clean and sanitize a bunch of bottles (56 to be exact), then wait for them to dry. Then one at a time, fill them slightly less than full, so they don’t explode on the shelf. Then one by one cap them all. If this explanation seems boring, imagine having to do it. Blah. My keg system can’t come soon enough.

Anyway, it took me all of five seconds to spot the egregious error I had made when I began to set up for the day. I had done my secondary fermentation IN my bottling bucket. This means that the pour sport that would normally drip my clean beer into the bottle was clogged with crap. It got worse. I dry-hopped this beer, which meant that every time I would fill up a beer, it would re-clog this vent with more left over hops. I could have risked moving it over to another vessel, cleaning it out, then moving it back, but it would have taken just as much time, so I elected to just press on. It took the better part of 2 hours to finish bottling it all. Ugh. I bottled everything with a 3/4 cup of priming sugar, more than enough for 3 gallons of beer.

On the other hand I did have a little taste of my uncarbonated masterpiece…it was going to be good.

08.23.2007- Tasting

I really wanted to wait for a weekend to try this beer. Bottled in 22 oz not 12 oz bottles, and weighing in at roughly 7.5% alcohol, I would have preferred to drink a few on a Friday night and sleep it off in the morning, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. I cracked open the bottle and a smile when I heard the living brew gasp for air. The tiny column of vapor that spills over the lip of a well conditioned bottle of beer never gets old. It poured masterfully, a 1 1/2 in. stack of tiny bubbles mounted at the top, and with surprisingly little residue in the bottle. It was hazy of course, but expected that, and it of course has no effect on the taste of the beer. It smelled better than I expected, though with less grapefruit and citrus notes than I was expecting. Finally, I tasted the damn thing. Nice. Bitter as hell, but without the acidic aftertaste. The grassy hop flavor and light malt are pretty well balanced, the advice I got on starting the hops early during the grain steep was worthwhile. Thick mouthfeel. This is the big beer I was going for. being a little on “high gravity” side, it needs some time to rest and age, but this is by far my best effort in the brewing category.

How to eat whatever the hell you want

…And still lose weight. If I ever decide to write something just to make money, this is going to be the title. Diet books sell, right? I expect I can get a book with a title like this into the hands of at least 500,000 unsuspecting fad-dieters. Here’s the outline:

  • Chapter 1: The food
  • Chapter 2: The training
  • Epilogue?

I’m banking on the theory that most dieters won’t read past the first sentence, so when they see “Eat pizza, drink beer, be merry. The rippling sinews in your mid-section will thank you” they’ll sprint to the checkout. Which is good. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to be doing a lot more sprinting, better that they start immediately.

In reality I could never write this book. My knowledge of nutrition comes mainly from the crap I read on the web, none of which I believe anyway. The first chapter would literally be a paragraph, which I can sum up with the phrase “If you’re not allergic to it, eat it”. That ought to fill up one page. Now what about the remaining hundred or so…oh right, did I mention the HORRIBLE AGONIZING TRAINING? Oh yes, I think I did. It goes a little something like this:

  • Sunday: 8-12 mile run. If you have to build up to this, no worries…
  • Monday: 2500-3000 meter swim. Severe weight training…think 300 workout
  • Tuesday: 3-5 mile run (you can run faster than that).
  • Wednesday: Play your drums for 2.5 hours. No drums? Fine…take a day off…pansy.
  • Thursday: 4 mile track workout in the morning (told you you could run faster) 2000-2500 Meter swim. Sigh…weights again.
  • Friday: Short Ride, maybe 1 hour or 20 miles, whichever comes first
  • Saturday: Swim 2400 meters straight. Don’t stop. Lift some weights if you can bring yourself to do so. Brick workout (2 hr+ ride followed by an immediate 35 min run)

I didn’t say this was particularly healthy way to lose weight. But if thats the sort of thing you’re into (losing tons of weight), this works really well for most of us. There it is, book completed. I guess its more of a pamphlet, or rather, a silly blog post.

Seriously though, If you’re into the whole losing weight thing, the only trick I know of is to eat less than you’re going to burn off in a day. You can either decrease the number of calories you take in, or increase the number you burn. Being a glutton, and not willing to give up pizza and beer to stay slim, I take the masochistic route and really kick my own ass.

If you can’t bring yourself to exercise, maybe you need to rephrase things. You’re not exercising…you’re training. For what? Doesn’t matter, maybe nothing. Then again maybe you get stuck on a desert island and the mainland shore is exactly 2.5 miles away…you can swim that. You’ve been training. Your dune buggy broke down 26.2 miles from any sign of life in the desert? I guess you’ll have to run back for help. Eh, its just a marathon. And while you’re running for help you can figure out how you made it 26 miles anywhere in a dune buggy.

Grant Muller

Introducing…

The Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth. Yes, Cary and I have been given another puppy, and as one person has already said:

“Holy Zombie Jesus, He’s Cute!”

Indeed. Here is the eight week old professor now as displayed by proud adopted interspecies care-taker, Cary:

Awwwwwwww…

So far he appears to be highly intelligent, extremely fastidious (he’s already crate-trained…at 8 weeks), and capable of handling himself in complex social situations involving dogs 40 times his size:

1 vs. 100…pounds

And to think, when Juno was a puppy we almost bought chew-toys that looked like little pugs.

Out cats have taken to him about as well they took to Juno. Fear and loathing best describes the relationship between the cats and the dogs now, and the fact that the cats could easily take the 2.5 lb pug in an old-fashioned donnybrook doesn’t seem to change those sentiments one bit. I’m beginning to think that all those calendar pictures of cats and dogs resting together in perfect harmony are just Photoshop tricks.

The only challenge we face with the Professor in the upcoming months is ensuring that Juno doesn’t mistake him for a meal. I’ll keep you posted.

Grant Muller