I am in Berlin

I am currently in Berlin.
I arrived in a war zone. In the streets right now people are lighting fireworks from open windows and rooftops. Not chintzy little fireworks like you find in Canada. 3/4″ dynamite sticks that flash white and make such a noise it ricochets off the buildings. It smells like sulphur outside. Even as the plane was landing you could see glittering plumes of fireworks rising from the ground. Oh, someone just launched a bottle rocket from the doorway on my right. Nobody seems particularly perturbed.
Two seconds in an overheated, sweaty room trying to quietly make my bed while two guys attempt to sleep off their hangovers, beer-farting away, remind me exactly why I hate hostels. What was I thinking? Oh, right, I was thinking I don’t have a place here yet. That has to change. Fast.
The 3C “hacker” conference just wrapped up. The woman next to me is running her netbook fully in Linux terminal mode. It makes me jealous.

I arrived in a war zone. In the streets right now people are lighting fireworks from open windows and rooftops. Not chintzy little fireworks like you find in Canada. 3/4″ dynamite sticks that flash white and make such a noise it ricochets off the buildings. It smells like sulphur outside. Even as the plane was landing you could see glittering plumes of fireworks rising from the ground. Oh, someone just launched a massive bottle rocket from the doorway on my right. Nobody seems particularly perturbed.

Two seconds in an overheated, sweaty room trying to quietly make my bed while two guys attempt to sleep off their hangovers, beer-farting away, remind me exactly why I hate hostels. What was I thinking? Oh, right, I was thinking I don’t have a place here yet. That has to change. Fast.

The 3C “hacker” conference just wrapped up. The woman next to me is running her netbook fully in Linux terminal mode. It makes me jealous.

That is all I have the energy to say right now. More later, perhaps.

Published: “Noughties or Nice” in Texture Magazine

My curmudgeonly review of the decade was published in Texture Magazine this month. Ch-ch-check it out:

Noughties or Nice @ Texture Magazine

Like the title? I do too. I always forget to title my articles so the editors make something up for me. It’s way more clever than anything I could come up with.

Lots of great stuff in Texture if you haven’t read it before. I’m especially fond of Aaron Levin’s album reviews.

So I went to visit an accountant today, which is likely the most adult thing I’ve done in my entire life. I guess now I can call him My Accountant because I will be giving him money eventually. He’s a pleasant fellow with gray hair and a slight British accent.

I was thinking: paper is stupid. I was sorting through my mess of important documents at home looking for some tax records I’d likely erroneously recycled and I was thinking about how dumb it is. Like, these documents are just reflecting what’s in the CRA’s big ol’ database of taxes. Why do I have to keep them for seven years? Why can’t I just go to the CRA’s website and issue a query to get a PDF of them? Oh right, because some people don’t understand the Internet.

My personal filing system is broken because all I do is put my documents in a big folder marked TAXES and call it a day. That’s kind of how I sort my documents on the computer because I just hit command-space and type some words to find my document instantly. This does not work with paper. Instead I sit on the floor with a folder full of papers with tiny writing scrawled upon them, hunting for dates and information with my eyes. Come on! I am not made for this.

My Accountant, however, is. I could tell by the way he obsessively rearranged his sticky notes in my file. The ones on the bottom formed a left-to-right tabbing system to quickly visit various documents. The ones sticking out from the right side indicated action items.

This behaviour specifically was what made me respect the man, because there’s no way in hell I could stay so organized. Essentially I’m paying the guy to organize paper for me, and after a night of wading through dusty, crumpled pages looking for CRA Notice of Assessment 2008 pages one and three (and not finding them) I think his services are totally worth it.

Online music stores that don’t suck

I’ve been trying to go legit. Trying to stop all the illegal downloading and legally purchase my music and video. The first online media stores were primitive: overpriced, DRM’d, and with crap media quality. The illegal world was full of non-DRM’d high-quality media files for free. It’s hard to compete with free, especially when artists weren’t paid in either case.

Nevertheless, the industry has advanced to the point that the offerings of media sellers is comparable to what you can steal, and for me the guilt of downloading has finally got worse than the inconvenience of legally purchasing media. Here are a few online music worth shopping at. They are all completely DRM free and work in Canada. (Video stores don’t seem to be quite as advanced or prevalent, yet.)

bleep.com

This store was started by Warp Records and was designed by The Designer’s Republic (RIP). It is the premiere electronic music store on the Internet. The selection is not exactly limited as it is curated. You’re certain to be stumbling onto quality music instead of badly produced basement recordings from someone who isn’t very good, like me.

Prices used to be pretty high by North American standards but it’s now become quite reasonable at 10 bucks for a 320kbit MP3 album and 13 for a FLAC album. Yes, this is one of the few stores that sells lossless audio. For that reason alone it gets a gold star.

You can also purchase CDs and Vinyl from the same web store… provided you are willing to pay the brutal shipping costs from the UK.

amiestreet.com

Amiestreet has an interesting trick: crowdsourced pricing. When an album is first uploaded it’s available for free. After a few downloads it gets priced around a dollar, and then goes higher depending on the number of downloads and user recommendations it collects.

What this means is that if you are into niche stuff nobody else knows about then you can usually find it for cheap. We’re talking under three bucks an album. Also, if you know the next big thing before anyone else does you can download it for cheap, then recommend it to screw everyone after you. Oh, and you get bonus credit if you recommend an album before it becomes popular. It’s like a crazy speculative market of musical opinion. Yes, finally, there is accounting for taste.

Selection used to be very limited but now I can find everything from Animal Collective to Britney Spears on here. (Britney is region-locked to the USA. Oh dear!) Downloads are usually 256kbit MP3 minimum, but 320kbit MP3 is catching on, and FLAC will be supported “soon”.

Artists get 70% of all sales, and anyone can upload their crappy basement recordings. Because of the pricing model, crappy recordings stay at the bottom of the pile. Your lo-fi cassette taped opus could get popular and net you big monies… and if it doesn’t at least you’re not annoying other shoppers with it.

In conclusion, go legit. Pay for your damn art.

Why yes, I did just change my blog software again

Okay, trying this whole “blogging” thing again. Back with WordPress because this new version is swanky and this time I’m not gonna let it go out of date… I promise.

If you’re following via RSS this should still work.

Also I guess now it’s gonna tweet every time I post a new entry, so I guess that’s a plus.

Every time I change my blog software my perma-links become a bit less permanent. This is the nature of the Internet. Information rots if left unattended.

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