Swan Sovereign / The Cabin Project

Went to a show at the Doug Fir last night. The opening band was The Cabin Project. The lead singer's vocal stylings reminded me a bit of Neko Case, and there was a lot of vocal harmony. (All four members sang.) I can't say much about the songwriting, because nobody mixes vocals so you can understand them in this town. But I bought one of their CD's, so I'll find out. Then the band I came to see, which was Swan Sovereign, which used to be Dirty Martini, but they decided that they needed a new name after retooling their sound and adding a bunch of new material. Their old sound was a bit eclectic, as befits a band that started as a Songwriters in the Round show; for a while their shows were mostly just each of them singing their own songs in turn with the others backing them up. This grew more organic over time, but you could still tell a Lara song from a Stephanie song from a McKinley song. I'm not sure I like the more homogeneous sound better. They ended up on the more rocking, take no BS side of their old sound, which I liked, but also liked their other sides. I wish know for sure who wrote the new songs; I'd guess that they are mostly McKinley's, but with her characteristic songwriting quirks filed down considerably. I still enjoyed the show quite a lot, and will continue to follow the band.

New song!

The Lark was a ship of John Astor’s concern,
For cargo of peltry she sailed for Astoria,
Fine coats for the ladies of Canton and Corea,
Fair profit to take in return.

She rounded the cape troubles none to report,
But hard to the Sandwich Isles, a savage wind blew her;
A wave like a wall struck her, broke her and threw her,
Oh, that I had died in that storm!


There’s many a sailor whose fate is unknown,
And I wish’t to God above, I had been one,
Swamped and becalmed and then circled by sharks,
Oh pity the crew of the Lark.

As we struggled to save her, the boats were both lost,
We clung to the bowsprit as waves crashed and drenched us,
The spars dragged along heaved and battered against us,
When the sea calmed we counted the cost.

Without we were soaked, but within we were parched;
Our islander dove below decks to retrieve us,
A few casks of wine, all there was to relieve us,
Oh, that I had died of my thirst!

Chorus [repeating the tag]
Oh pity, oh pity the crew of the Lark.

The wind that blew fierce, well it soon became scarce;
Though we’d salvaged a jury-mast, a topsail and rigging,
We thereafter northward proceeded in limping,
For the doldrums reproved our repairs.

Then schools of great sharks round the ship took their mark,
Awaiting the feast that our deaths would present them.
The bosun’s mate fell and they tore him and rent him,
Oh, that I were food for that shark!


Canoes from Hawayee hailed to us one morn,
Our thoughts were of rescue, but theirs of predation,
For all we had left was the price of salvation:
Our clothes from our persons were torn.

Now we hear news of Astoria Fort,
By treachery sold to the damned Northwest Company.
Our object had never been more than futility,
Oh, that I had never been born!

Chorus [repeating the tag]
Oh pity, oh pity the crew of the Lark.

(no subject)

Back from Conflikt 6. I had a bit of a realization about filk. On the one hand, I truly loathe badfilk, but at the same time, if it weren't around, I wouldn't get nearly as much out of the filk circle experience. The filk circle that closed the con contained an unusual number of Real Musicians™. I am a very good singer, and my songwriting has flashes of adequacy, but I don't yet play an instrument. The upshot is, in a typical circle, my contributions are better than the median, and I can feel that I am improving the experiences of people around me by contributing. But in a circle with really good performers my contributions would be considerably below the median, and not worth making. Since a major part of my enjoyment of filk is getting to sing my own songs, I can only get that enjoyment in a context where most of what is being performed is worse than what I'm doing. Which would be fine if most of that was only a little worse, but there tends to be a pretty big standard deviation, so I have to spend quite a lot of the time listening to performances that I find physically painful to listen to.

The answer to my conundrum is of course to make better performances that would be acceptable even in the context of Real Musician heavy circles. That would mean either learning guitar or making friends with people with guitars who either already attend cons or would be willing to start. However, learning instruments and making friends are both areas in which I have not heretofore displayed any skill, so don't hold your breath.


Last year I:

Did not get a job.

Did not get a romantic relationship. (Which is hardly surprising. I don't love myself and I wouldn't expect anyone else to love me. It still hurts though.)

Lost my apartment and had to move in with my parents.

Had no appreciable changes to my health, which is good, although I could stand to be more fit.

Did not get nearly enough done creatively. Did have a good run of math blog posts earlier in the year, and a few in the last month. Did design and have lasercut a few new puzzles, including one for Gathering for Gardner, which was one of the highlights of my year. Sold some puzzles at craft fairs, but not enough to be actually making net money off of the hobby. Wrote a couple thousand words toward a novel, which seems to be going on the back burner for a bit. I don't think I finished writing a single song this year, excepting the one I wrote for the Orycon song contest.

Sang a bunch. Danced a bunch. Read a bunch. Biked. Played board games with friends. Saw a lot of British and Australian television, and a fair number of old movie musicals.

Really though, I don't think my contribution to humanity paid for my environmental footprint last year.

Time for a new computer

I think I got my current computer in 2005 or thereabouts, and it's become abundantly clear by the slowness of the things I try to do on it that it's time for a new one.

My preference is to start with a barebones system, with motherboard and power supply already installed. This is because I feel pretty comfortable installing components into a system, but I feel a little uncomfortable starting entirely from scratch. (Also, I don't want to pay Microsoft for the privilege of running Linux, and I want to avoid Secure Boot like the plague, so a PC from a big manufacturer like HP isn't looking good.) Last time around I got a Shuttle, and since it's lasted this long, I'm inclined to get another one. (I also like the form factor: smallish, but takes standard 5" optical drives.) I'm not using the system for gaming, mostly just web browsing and word processing and such. As for my budget, I'd like to stay around the 400 - $450 range.

I really know nothing about hardware these days, so I'd appreciate it if anyone would like to critique my choices. Here's what I've come up with:

Barebones system: Shuttle SH61R4 $200. The next step up is the SH67H3 at $240. The main difference I can see is that the latter has 6 Gb/s SATA, and the former has only 3 Gb/s SATA. Is that worth $40? Is that worth more than adding more RAM and a better CPU would be for the same price?

CPU: Intel Pentium Dual-Core G860 3.0 GHz 3 MB Cache. $70. I've been an AMD guy for a long time, but I understand that the days of paying the "Nobody got fired for buying Intel" tax are at an end. There are lots of confusing choices here; I just picked one that people seemed to be using with that Shuttle box and that seemed to be at a reasonable price point.

RAM: 4GB DDR3 1333 $20. Should I go to 8GB?

SSD: 64GB SATA 6GB/s $75.

Hard drive: 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" $60 (It sounds like the thing to do these days is put the OS and programs on an SSD drive, and anything that either takes up a lot of space or will be frequently rewritten on the HD.)

Optical drive, keyboard, mouse, wifi adapter, and monitor will be scavenged from existing components. No graphics card, I'm planning on using the on-board graphics. OS will probably be Linux Mint. $0

That comes out to $425, right in the middle of my range. The prices are mostly Amazon's, except where Amazon doesn't carry something (which is only the cheaper Shuttle box.) Specific types of criticism I would like would be answers to the following: Where should I pay more to get more? Where should I pay less to get less? Should I care about which brand I get for the items where I haven't indicated a brand?