Hobonichi 2021 Haul

My Hobonichi order finally showed up!

The packaging from Hobonichi has always been fun, and the quotes are interesting.

… and as always, everything is well organized inside of the box.

This year I figured I would pick up a couple of the Drawer Pouches that match as close as I could with my Porter cousin case. From the pictures I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get, but wanted to check them out. Both seem like they probably are better with flatter content, though I will give it a try and see if I can get washi tape to fit in here well enough or not.

I also picked up the new Hobonichi Techo 2021 cousin, which came with the Fude pen, which I’ll be checking out for some artwork, and the 3 color pen that has black, red, and blue. I really liked this pen from previous years, so will definitely be keeping this. I also got some of the landscape index tabs to help make it a bit easier to read through the cousin by month.

The Case For a Clean Inbox

Folks, I’ve seen many of your counts of unread emails, messages, and other backlogs. I’m not sure how you keep the mental space to keep track of all of this information coming at you. Maybe I’m getting too old, but I just find it to be a sign of a cluttered mind.

For me, I really strive to keep inbox zero, or in other words, no email is sitting in my inbox. For me, the problem is that the longer something sits in the inbox whether it is read or unread, the more likely you are to ultimately do nothing with it. Is this procrastination, optimism that somebody else will deal with the email, or lack of interest, frankly it doesn’t matter. In all cases it results in something that takes up mental space that you’d be better off freeing yourself from. These little things can add up to real setbacks.

To help combat this, I have taken the mindset that my inbox is a precious and limited resource, and I have come up with a loose process to keep myself honest with my emails, and in particular, my inbox.

  1. If it is junk mail, I consistently look for the unsubscribe, and if it is repeat junk mail then I make a filter to auto delete it. Either way, I don’t need any more of this noise in my life.
  2. I check to see if it is informative, and if it is, I will read it, possibly move it to a relevant folder, or otherwise archive it. Many email systems allow you to archive emails these days, so that it is still searchable, but it isn’t taking up precious inbox space.
  3. Often an email comes in and I need to take an action on it. If I do, I make every attempt to deal with it right away. Sometimes the action is a response, which I will get to as quickly as possible, and then archive the message. Other times it is a delegation task and I just need to let somebody else know that they have an action.
  4. On the other hand, there are some emails that are things I would rather put off, or I just don’t want to do. For these, I tend to take a note, a ticket for work to be done, create a document, or otherwise let people know that I am at least tracking the work somewhere else and to not use the email as a place to track the work.

If all of this sounds like a bit of work, and requires some mental fortitude I will agree. I often find I have 10-20 emails stuck in my inbox at any given time, but I also find that given enough time I usually just delete or archive half of them without doing any work in the first place. Given this insight with myself, and continuing to consider how my inbox works for me, I do strive to keep it clean.

Heck, just today I got my emails back down to zero, and I couldn’t be happier!

2019 Every Day Carry

Below is what I had for my “every day carry” back in 2019.  This is the last iteration where I have dropped a thicker wallet and gone from 8-12 cards and cash, down to 4 cards.  The notebook and pen are new, but being about the same size as my phone I hardly notice it day to day.

While I am thinking about what I keep in my pockets or otherwise on my person I like to ask myself a few questions… “Why do I carry this”, “how often do I use this”, and “what utility does this provide” are all pretty good, and help me make sure I keep focus on what I am lugging around.

For me, it’s about keeping it minimal so I can fit it in my front pockets, and maximizing utility.  I don’t count clothing… I might consider a belt though since I do carry it every day.  I might consider it more if I found one that had a bit more function than just holding my pants up. A few fun ways to break this down are utility (how many different ways can you use something), go to (how many times do you reach for it), usage (how much time do you use it).

25 Ideas in 3 Minutes

When I feel like I am stuck for ideas, one thing I like to do is rapid brainstorms. This is especially helpful for me because there is a tendency to get pushed into a specific train of thought, and sometimes I just want to move outside of the box that I have put myself in. In order to push myself I find it helpful to come up with as many random ideas to address a topic as I can within a short period of time. The idea is not to get 25 great ideas, but instead to explore thoughts that you might have otherwise ignored.

For this exercise, you’ll need a topic, something to take notes on, and something to time yourself. Personally, I like to use my phone to set a timer, and a piece of paper and a pen or pencil to jot down notes and pictures rapid fire. At 25 ideas in 3 minutes, you’ll need to be writing something down every 7.2 seconds to be able to keep pace, so let odd ideas build off of each other, and don’t be afraid to throw in completely unrelated thoughts.

For example, I was struggling with my team handling things quickly or with a sense of urgency. Here’s what a 3 minute brainstorming session looked like for me

Brainstorm 25 things to add team urgency:

  • Happy/Sad Face for metrics
  • Impact bonus based on urgency results
  • Incoming reduction in headcount
  • Stop allowing remote workers
  • No group outings allowed
  • Increase frequency of all hands meetings
  • Start daily scrums
  • Forced work hours
  • Dress code imposed
  • Team hats / slogans contest
  • Pins / Badges provided for achievements
  • Wood burning art for outstanding achievement
  • In person award ceremony
  • Free Time Off / Comp Time
  • Command Keen (?) / Dopefish
  • Commander Chaos (Assigned)
  • Zombies!!!
  • 360 Team Review
  • No Conference attendance allowed
  • Notepad to voice next all hands topics
  • Announce fiscal year team goals
  • Wear Signs / Boards
  • Motivational Posters
  • Random Assignment of Tickets
  • Become the backup week

Ultimately the important part that came of this was just trying out new ideas and bringing to light frustrations that I really didn’t realize that I had. Looking back on this list, some of these things don’t even make sense, some could kill team morale, some things are draconian, and a number of things were just too costly or time consuming to implement. Yet, there are some interesting solutions that I did end up rolling out and implementing within the team because I needed to do something different.

If you’ve got something you’re trying to work out, set yourself some constraints, limit your time, and put the random part of your brain to work and see what you can come up with!

Track – I Really Don’t Mind

This track I threw together for the MPC Forums Beat Battle #293. It’s still open if you wanted to check it out and post up your own take. The sample to flip this time around is Brenton Wood “Trouble”.

Honestly, I just loaded the track into the MPC Live, set it to chop on transients with a setting of 50, and then just started looking for samples I thought sounded cool. Was this lazy? Probably, but for this beat battle I wanted to force myself outside of the mindset of using perfect loops, and some of those transients were janky as heck, making me think way outside of the box.

So for the track, every sound came out of the provided track, drum hits, organs, Vox, fx… etc… I didn’t have to do very much (if any) EQ/FX, and mostly just let my ears take me through what sounded good and played the pads louder or softer to match what I liked. A few chopped sounds I did like were way too quiet, and as a result I didn’t end up using them. I had considered making some quieter sections, but I just couldn’t find a place to land it that would feel natural.

Once I created all of the parts that I liked, I ended up doing a track -> explode to separate all of the individual sounds, and then exported from the MPC out to Ableton so that I could then get busy with arrangement. This is another track where I really didn’t do anything terribly special within Ableton Live other than maybe a few double ups and repeats, but I pretty much arranged it as played or how I think I would run this out as a DJ, but keeping the track tighter than I usually would… basically my mind set was “get to the point fast”, which is something I’ve really come to appreciate from doing the Beat Battles.

Track – Just Breath

I really wanted to do something kind of epic, kind of 8-bit, and kind of fun… hopefully this track hits those beats for you. All of the tracks were done on the MPC Live mk2, and I exported the stems for arrangement out in Ableton Live.

The most abusive thing I did was decimating that clap hit into a bit crunched bunch of noise, the rest was pretty standard flare, with maybe a bit of automation thrown in for effect just to give the track some movement.

Track – Space Dust

I put this track together last week for the MPC BB 292, and then forgot to post about it.

The first trick, to get the really over cooked sound from the track, I ended up pitching the track up 3 octaves before playing it, and then sampled it into my Akai S950. This really stripped away a lot of the high end information, but also made the low end quite a bit punchier to my ears. Initially I pitched it up so much because I just didn’t have the sample time to record a nearly 6 minute song into the roughly 23 seconds of sample time… and pitching the content up so extremely really let me squeeze it all in there.

To sample the content back, I used the S950 to pitch all of the content back down 3 octaves, and recorded both a “clean” version, and then also recorded the content back with the S950’s low pass filter set to about 50… it might have been 53, I cannot recall now. Honestly, I’m quite impressed with how well the S950 maintained quite a bit of the character of the track with such an extreme pitch shift, sampled down to 12-bits. Sure some of the dynamics are gone, but it is still clearly recognizable as a song.

From there I ended up doing a lot of chopping of the samples inside the MPC Live, so that I could have more control and not fighting with the S950 UI. I did use external samples for the drums here, and the chords came from outside as well. I just needed something that would help cut through the song a bit, and this did seem to work quite well.

Once I finished, I wrote the tracks out so that I could process them in Ableton Live and glue everything together into a finished song.

Streamlining my Setup

Yeah I did it… I boxed up a bunch of music gear. I just needed to get some more focus on the gear I want to use right now, and figure out how to make it a bit simpler. This isn’t the final form, but gosh I have a sit and stand desk, and I wasn’t able to use it because the short rack didn’t have long enough cables to move out from under the desk, so it was permanently stuck high.

This is fine if you want to stand while making music all the time, but I find I like to move around, stand up, sit down, shimmy, whatever it takes to get the creative juices flowing. Also, using the Akai S1000 and S950 are a complete drag to use where they were on the floor, I’m hoping this will get me back into sampling more material with them since they are much easier to get my hands on without having to actually sit on the floor.

So this gets me to the eurorack case, the guitar pedal case, the S950, S1000, MPC Live, the Cooper FX Arcade, and the good old Organelle. There might be something else floating in there… but that is about it. Now to think about what I have done and if it is time to sell off even more gear, or figure out how to bring the other stuff back into my life slowly. I’ll have to wait and see!

Akai S1000 Screen Repair

Last week I turned on my S1000, to find that the screen backlight was no longer working. Bummer that I had replaced it last year… but I figured I’d take it apart and see if I could get the old girl working again. Just in case, I also bought a replacement display… so that I could replace that in the event that something went horribly wrong. Stay tuned to learn that yes… something did go horribly wrong.

Here is a bit of a better view, where you can see that the display is practically unreadable, which is the state of the S1000 last year when I had done the repair by swapping out the backlight… except this backlight hadn’t gotten very much usage… so bummer there and all. I figured I’d pop off the top and see if there was something super obvious like a short or anything, but wiggly around the backlight board didn’t help to much… and the backlight is secured in by the screws that hold the display in place, so I was going to have to take the entire front panel off.

This picture is from below… I figured I would just take the screws off the bottom of the front panel this way instead of flipping the case over. From what I had remembered it wasn’t too bad to get in there, definitely not as complicated as the S950.

I would like to point out that you can see two zip ties holding the bulk of cables that go to the display together. This is kind of nice I guess to keep everything inside neat (even if it is ridiculously spacious in here)… but this is where I made a horrible mistake.

If you look at the ribbon cable here, you can see that I accidentally snipped the cable… and I have no idea when I did it. Probably when I cut the zip ties. To check my sanity to see if there were any issues, I ended up testing all of the buttons. I pretty quickly determined that the data button was not working, so I soldered the two ends together and confirmed that the data button started working again. I’m not proud of the accidental damage to the S1000, but at least it wasn’t too hard to fix.

Here is the backlight working again. Guess what, I didn’t even replace it. After digging in there, moving stuff around, and just trying it again it was magically working. So now I have a snipped cable, a spare display, and I ordered a spare backlight. I probably don’t need all of this extra stuff for my display, but well… there it is.

In the end it isn’t about repairing a broken backlight or not, it’s the adventures and mistakes we made to get there, and what we learned together in the end 😀

Music Notation – Dynamics & Akai Auto Sampler

Well over at the MPC Forums a user created a topic Tidy Keygroup Names and thought that there was a bug when they were auto sampling, as it was putting f/p/fm/pm into the names of the samples instead of actual velocity. I chuckled to myself, because this seems kind of strange to show up into sample names.

Why is this strange you may ask? Well, for starters the auto sampler uses both the note names, as well as the midi note numbers in the file name when you auto sample an instrument. This makes sense, even if it is duplicate information. However, when you do multiple velocity levels, the auto sampler adds f/fm/pm/p (or a subset there of) into the file names. Strange huh? Especially if you don’t know what it means.

The notation indicate loudness without specifying an actual or precise loudness. Essentially, it is up to the player to use their instincts, emotions, or placement within a surround environment and other instruments to determine how loud to play. To break it down for you, here’s a table to explain the various f/mf/mp/p meanings

fffvery very loud
ffvery loud
floud
mfnot so loud
mpnot so quiet
pquiet
ppvery quiet
pppvery very quiet
Music Notation – Dynamics

So to break it down for the MPC, it’s basically recording samples denoted as loud, not so loud, not so quiet, and quiet, which covers your four velocity levels.

This is a complete assumption, but I am guessing that the reason Akai would do this is that it requires at most 2 characters to represent the four velocity layers for the auto sampled content, instead of needing 3 characters to represent from 000 to 127.

Personally, I am not a fan of this style of notation, and would have much preferred to see Akai use either hexadecimal notation which would still utilize only two characters, or to have done something the F/f/p/P to use only one character. Instead we have the solution that Akai went with, which is obtuse, and doesn’t really help the person auto sampling understand what the values actually are without opening up the Program to see what the content is. Oddly, this leaves the artist with a clear indication of what the note is, what the midi note is, but the artist is left to speculate what the velocity may or may not mean.

If you’re looking for more information, check out the Wiki page Dynamics (music).

If you’d like to see some funny conversations on about this notation… read below