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For those who are interested in this sort of stuff, here's the info from the poster for the last night of the International Writers Festival here in Ottawa.

Disclaimer: I'm the technical guy/sound technician for the Festival



with Mike Carey, Jo Walton, and Kelley Armstrong
Saturday, May 2, 2009


6:00 PM - Fantastic Fiction: Mike Carey, Jo Walton and Kelley Armstrong on World Building

Mike Carey Jo Walton Kelley Armstrong
(Mike Carey photo by Lin Carey, Kelley Armstrong photo by Curtis Lantinga)

Three gifted storytellers delight in showing us worlds almost our own, each with a twist that transforms the mundane to the fantastic.
(Tickets $15)


8:00 PM - Global Encounters: An Evening with Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin by Marian Wood Kolisch
(Photo Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch)

We close the Spring Edition with one of the world’s undisputed literary masters. Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and National Book Awards and eighteen Locus Awards, she has inspired generations of readers. Don’t miss a rare appearance by one of America’s most profound thinkers and authors.
(Tickets $20)

Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
314 Saint Patrick (at Cumberland)
Tickets and information: 613-562-1243 OR www.writersfestival.org

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I'm about to go shopping for a hearing test, and am wondering what I ought to be asking for.  I intend to call up the doctors that do that sort of thing, and ask detailed questions.
I know that many, maybe most, tests simply check response in octaves, and don't test above 8kHz or below 250Hz (I think that's right). I'd like to know the correct names for the sorts of tests that go beyond those ranges and test with finer gradations.
I'd also like to know what other specific things I should ask about, and what sorts of things to avoid.
FWIW, I'm in Ontario in Canada, so I'm not quite as worried about HMOs and insurance stuff as I would be if I was in the US.
(And no, I'm not really worried about my hearing degrading.  Well, I do worry about it, but that's not why I'm looking for the info.  I just want to make sure that I'm still hearing as well as I think I am.)
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Well, new to us, anyhow.

It's a 1988 (yep) Dodge Ram 150, V6, in astonishingly good shape.

More later, but the insurance company, Ottawa police, and all sorts of other people were terrific about the whole process of dealing with a stolen and damaged car.

The Ministry of Transportation, on the other hand, required me to provide an appraisal of the value of the vehicle before they would transfer the ownership. So I traded on a friend of a friend's generosity, and got his boss (at Import Auto on Merivale Road in Ottawa) to provide the appraisal (which requirement he called "ridiculous" -- I have other words).  Go buy some cars from them, okay?

I also had to fight with the person in the office to transfer the ownership when "the system" would not allow her to do so. She was trying to renew my plates using an emissions test that was going to expire before my birthday, instead of simply transferring the ownership to me. "The system won't let me do it." Not my problem -- certificate's good for a year, it's less than a year old, make it work.

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As I mentioned, our van was stolen on the morning of Christmas Eve. The van itself has been found, and is in an impound lot waiting for the insurance appraiser to look at it; the musical equipment that was in the van is all missing.

But being me, I have made a list of the equipment that is missing, with serial numbers when I have them (yes, I should have ALL the serial numbers, but I don't).

If you find any of this gear, please inform the Ottawa Police at 613–236–1222x7300, and refer to report #08–357933.

Musical equipment missing includes:

  • Targus laptop case with
    • Behringer MXB1002 mixer, with AC adapter, ser# N0213928122,
    • FMR RNC audio compressor, with AC adapter,,
    • Lexicon LXP-5, with AC adapter, ser# V1292-44861,
    • 4×dual 1/4" cables,
    • 2×1/4"-XLRm cables
  • Multi-Caisses Road Boss 4 rack case with
    • Marshall 8008 power amp with broken power switch,
    • Denon 2000F MkIII cd player,
    • Apex AMX61 mixer ser# 20044492;
  • 2×Yorkville speakers NX35;
  • 2×Yorkville speaker stands, in padded nylon carrying case;
  • 2×Plano pistol cases with:
    • Sennheiser Freeport handheld wireless mic sets ser# 1510410930 1510410805
  • 2×K&M model 252 microphone stands, in padded nylon carrying case
  • Flambeau 3501 fishing tackle box with audio adapters:
    • 4×XLRm gender changers,
    • 4×XLRf gender changers,
    • 4×XLRf-2m y-cables,
    • 2×Shure A15AS XLR pads,
    • 2×VGAm gender changers,
    • 2×VGAf gender changers,
    • 4×XLRm-TRSm,
    • 4×XLRm-TSm,
    • 4×XLRf-TRSm,
    • 4×XLRf-TSm,
    • 4×1/4 in TS (F) to Dual Banana
    • 8×RCAf-TSm,
    • 2×3.5mmf-TRSm,
    • 2×Shure A95UF transformers,
    • 2×IEC to Edison adapters
  • black Pelican 1510 Laptop Carry On Case with
    • Apex headphones,
    • Shure SM58-S,
    • 15' XLR cable,
    • 6' XLR cable,
    • 2×3.5mm-2 1/4" male cables
    • boxes of
      • 12×9V batteries,
      • 24×AA batteries,
      • 24×AAA batteries,
    • Studiomaster Diamond 4-channel mixer (4-channel battery-powered mixer with XLR inputs),
    • Behringer CT100 cable tester,
    • Philips portable CD player
    • a couple of rolls of Permacel gaffer tape
    • the usual junk that accumulates in a briefcase,
  • plastic crate with
    • 2×Furman SS-6B power bars,
    • 3×10 meter black power extension cords,
    • 4×50' speaker cords,
    • XLR cables (2×10', 2×25', 1×50');
  • Manhasset Model #48 music stand;
  • Shepherd flatbed cart

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Well, maybe not all hope, but the police officer that took my initial report said that the van would likely be found in 48 hours, or not at all.

It's been more than 48 hours, but then it's also been Christmas and boxing day and Christmas Eve and such. There's still some hope, but not a lot.

Thanks for the sympathetic comments, folks; they've helped a lot. The van and the gear are all fairly anonymous and straight off-the-shelf stuff.

One thing I neglected to mention, and an important thing, is how nice everyone has been that I've talked to. The police, the insurance folks, the car rental people1, everybody. They've all been calm, and sympathetic, and businesslike, all of which made the dealings much better for me.

1 We did get a rental car, btw. And from a rental place that was quite close to home.

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The operative word is, of course, “used to”. Two words, operative two words.

My sweetie, looking out at around 9:30 AM to see how much snow we had to scrape off the van today, saw that there was nothing to scrape snow off of, woke me, and thus began my day of talking to

  • the police,

  • my insurance agent,

  • the police (again),

  • my insurance agent (again),

  • three insurance claims people:

    • one for the van itself (three times),

    • one for its contents (once),

    • one who answered the phone when one of the others was on another call,

  • a bunch of car rental folks (some several times; try to imagine how hard it is to rent a car on Christmas eve, during a transit strike -- it's actually much harder than that),

etc., etc., etc..

I'd looked out at the van last night (December 23rd), and all was well. On December 24th, Dave Eh?, our neighbour to the east, noticed the van in the drive as he left for work at 6:30 AM; Marion, our western neighbour, noticed that the van was not there at 7:30 AM.

The problem with the contents is that I'd been the sound guy for a Christmas party, and hadn't unloaded the van 'cause I really still need some help for that. As a result I had a small PA system left in the van, which is now missing. Mixers, amplifiers, speakers, CD player, microphones, stands, cables, gone.

Yes, I do realize that nobody was physically hurt, it was only stuff, and stuff can be replaced. But it was MY stuff, dammit. We'd spent a chunk of money on the car in the past year, planning to keep it for a while yet. And the audio gear had been collected over quite some time, picking carefully and choosing only good gear. Yes it was insured, but still...

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I woke up yesterday morning with my broken foot hurting quite a lot, which it had not been doing.  Considering that I suffer from classic migraine, I believe that "quite a lot" really is quite a lot.  Inspection showed that the cast had broken above the ankle, about 3/4 of the way around, in line with the plaster bandage used to make the thing in the first place. If I relaxed my ankle, the crack opened and my foot hurt; if I tensed muscles so that the crack closed, my foot didn't hurt but my calf muscles ached and cramped.

I made the appropriate phone call, and got told to come in to the emergency room for a look-see. So my sweetie wrapped my cast in an elastic bandage (looked rather surreal), packed some supplies (food, check; drinks, check; paperback books, check) and we head off to the QCH.  Usual triage and wait ensues.

When I finally got to the cast room, the technician (I believe that's the right term) sawed off the old cast, washed my foot and leg, and we had a discussion on the scentedness of the soap being used ("It's unscented." "No it's not, I can smell it from over here," says my sweetie. "We're only supposed to use unscented stuff here." "Look, here in the ingredients list: Fragrance." "Dang. I'll take that up with the powers that be." "Thanks.  And while you're at it, would you mention the Purell that's everywhere and makes us ill?").  After a few careful rinsings with clear water, I had a new fiberglass cast installed.

If you ever need a cast, go for fiberglass.  It hardens in ten minutes, instead of the 48 hours that plaster takes; is much lighter than plaster, and (at least in theory) won't crack like plaster.  It also is available in a variety of colours; I picked blue, of a choice of blue, white, and glow-in-the-dark (I imagine a particular LJer is plotting a fracture just to get a glow-in-the-dark cast). That was the selection at the QCH, the manufacturer (3M) makes the stuff in 113 patient-pleasing colours.  (Sorry, that should have been 13, not 113, colours)

So far, so good.
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I got a phone call from the manager of the space, informing me that they would pick up the tab for expenses incurred because of the accident.

Turns out things were left in a poor state because of a previous event, and the new person (her first day) who should have noticed such things didn't know to look.

Anyhow, I'm off to the local bookstore for their customer appreciation event.
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That might not be the correct quote. Anyhow...

Your humble servant is currently ensconced in the living room, crutches by his side, cast up to his knee. Argh.

I was setting up some chairs and a table on a stage made up of movable risers, and one of the risers moved as I stepped onto it.  I clearly recall thinking that I'd better present as much of myself to the floor as I could, to spread out the impact. This I did, quite successfully; I suffered a small bruise to my right elbow, and a wee bit of abrasion to the skin thereon.

In my case it wasn't the landing but the falling that caused the damage. 

I finished the gig, mostly running the microphones and playing the CDs for the songwriters workshop.  I phoned my sweetie, who came down and drove me to the hospital. A moderate wait later, I was having my foot prodded, then X-rayed, then wrapped in plaster bandages.

My foot apparently twisted as I went over, causing what is called a Jones fracture, a break in the fifth metatarsal in my right foot.  I am to see an orthopedics specialist on Thursday; with any luck I'll be into a walking cast (as opposed to the thumping and crashing cast I'm in now).

No sign of osteoporosis (and yes, I do take calcium supplements), the arthritis apparently didn't play a part. I do, however, feel pretty stupid.
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Over the past few years, I have become a sound guy as well as/sort of supplanting my bass-playerishness.  I've worked at Jazz/Folk/Blues/whatever festivals, and have concluded that there are too many soundpeople out there who have damaged hearing.
Last weekend was the Ottawa Folk Festival, where I did sound at a side stage and at the alternate main stage.  The guy who did the main main stage is terrific, and I've learned a lot from just being in the same tent as him, but I digress...
Generally, the bands who brought their own sound techs ended up being too loud, boomy, and shrill.  There were exceptions, of course, but in general that was what happened.  One fellow did sound for a guitar/bass/fiddle trio on the alternate stage, and as he was leaving, told me that I could keep the EQ changes that he'd made to the mixing board 'cause he'd discovered that my board wasn't going through the house equalizers.  What he'd done was increase the high end overall to where it was shrill and unpleasant, and made some other nasty changes to the way I'd had things set up.  Took me a while to put things back to the way I wanted them.
The regular main stage guy opined that part of it was people being used to the sound of systems reaching their limits, and getting distorted.  The system we had was a very nice line array which is capable of sustained levels in excess of 110dB without breathing hard, very high quality microphones, mixers, and outboard gear, and a crew that really knew their stuff.  But one mediocre sound guy can make a great fiddle sound like a bad kazoo.
Okay, enough of my ranting, back to the usual debates here. 
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We were in to Rasputin's today to lend a bit of a hand.  As one might expect after a fire, the place is a mess, but not IMHO a complete disaster.

There is a hole in the ceiling in the back kitchen, through to the 2nd floor apartment.  The fridge and freezer that were back there are apparently a total loss, as was the stereo system (it melted).  Stuff in other parts of the place suffered little fire damage, but a lot of smoke damage.

I took most of the PA system away, after removing the worst of the crud from the outside.  I suggested that Dean discard the microphones; I doubt that they could ever be made acceptable for use again.  The mixing board, power amplifier, and one speaker are currently at an electronics repair shop (the other speaker is still hanging from the ceiling, and we couldn't get to it because the ladder was melted); Dean's electronic keyboard is at a different shop (the first place, arguably a better spot for audio gear, doesn't work on microprocessor-controlled stuff, period).  Dean's guitar and mandolin survived pretty much unscathed -- they were apparently even still in tune.

Fortunately the electronic gear was neither soaked in the firefighting, nor was it powered-on during the fire.  Dean has for years used a power bar to turn things on and off, so there weren't even any items on standby.

People are devoting time and labor to getting things going again.  One local performer took away a van load of dishes and cutlery and stuff, to run them through a dishwasher. Dean is hosting a table-washing party tomorrow, I think. 
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I just learned that Willie P. Bennett died on Friday.  At home, of natural causes (he'd had a heart attack almost a year ago).

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For those of you who are following the story, Heidi got irradiated yesterday. All seems well, barring a mild sore throat and mild nausea, both expected.

For those who AREN'T in on it -- Heidi was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, commonly known as hyperthyroidism. Not life-threatening, but a nuisance. It's well understood, the treatment is straightforward, and the effects of the disease should be largely reversible.

For the real nerds in the audience, the dosage was 9.5 milliCuries of I131, equivalent to ingesting about 60 pounds of raw Uranium.
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In a 1966 Playboy magazine interview, reproduced at http://www.interferenza.com/bcs/interw/66-jan.htm

PLAYBOY: Mistake or not, what made you decide to go the rock-'n'-roll route?

DYLAN: Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy - he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?

I think this explains a LOT about Bob Dylan.
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NerdTests.com says I'm a Dorky Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

I suspect the Sci-fi/Comic score is so low because I was never particularly into comics, except when they were the one source of reading material I could afford to buy (at 12 cents each, mind :-) 
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...he says, blatantly snaffling [personal profile] henrytroup's topic. 

I was the sound technician at the Loeb Glebe Hill stage during the day on Saturday and Sunday, and the technician for the Transition stage Thursday through Sunday evenings. 

What this means is that I got to meet and work with all sorts of good folks (Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps, Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman, Jason Lang, Jah Youssof, Jimmy LaFave, Kate Weekes, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Oh Susanna, The Good Lovelies, Lindsay Jane, and on and on and on), and to see all sorts of great folks (Carolina Chocolate Drops, Old Man Luedecke, et al.).

It also means that I survived a ridiculous windstorm, worked around some half-broken equipment, and didn't get anywhere near enough sleep.  Oh well.

The Transition Stage was an interesting concept.  A smaller stage adjoining the Main stage, the performers went on between the main acts, allowing the stage crew time to reset for the different artists.  The performers were generally slightly lower profile folks, but still vastly entertaining.  It generally worked very well, with a couple of minor hiccoughs.  

Next up -- building a bunch of custom cabling in the new Great Canadian Theater Company building.
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I had a moderate migraine today. Moderate in the sense that I was able to make it home from where I was (peculiarly, a medical building), shower, take some meds, and collapse into bed.

Looking at blogs of friends and acquaintances that are migraineurs (I don't care if it's a word, I'm going to use it) or otherwise occasionally disabled (fibromyalgia, etc.), anyone who's written anything has commented that they've not been well.

I'm not sure what that means, but probably something...
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I've been doing sound for a band called Riverthieves for about a year and a half, though the band has been around for a lot longer than that. They're a Celtic-based band, which means that their major busy period is around St. Patrick's Day (with occasional spikes like Robbie Burns' Day).

This year was no different. Things started on the evening of Thursday the 15th with a gig at D'Arcy McGee's. That went pretty well, they sold a few CDs, and everybody went home happy.

Friday evening the 16th they did a gig at the Nepean Sailing Club which I didn't attend; Gene Bruce, the manager of the club, is an excellent sound guy, and the place has a very good sound system. I was going to go anyway, sort of a busman's holiday, but I ended up with a dandy migraine and wasn't in any shape to do anything that night.

St. Paddy's day started with a gig back at D'arcy McGee's at 11:30 AM. That ran until almost 2:00, then my lovely and talented assistant Dave Eh? and I tore down and packed up in a big hurry, and roared off to the Royal Oak Gloucester for a show at 3:00. And there we had troubles...

I bought a sound mixer just over a week ago, a used Yamaha 01V digital mixer (warning, PDF link). I played with it a bit, Heidi and Dave Eh? and I used it for several hours at a practice, worked great. I hooked it up in the sound system, everything was working well and sounding terrific, the band was into their second or third tune of the first set, when I made the grave error of considering ordering lunch. At that point, the audio coming out of the mixer stopped. Hmm, that's not supposed to happen. I shut the mixer off, waited a few seconds, and turned it back on. Got audio for a few seconds, then nothing. All the appropriate lights are on, the display shows what it's supposed to show, but no output.

Well, suspenders and a belt and all that, I had another mixer, though rather smaller, in the car, just in case. Trotted out, grabbed it, back in, then a flurry of activity as Eh? and I move the cabling over. The band, troupers all, just kept playing the whole time (it wasn't that big a bar, but big enough), and in a very short time, we had glorious amplified audio again. 5:00 came, we shut down and loaded out, and enjoyed a brief respite.

The rest of the band went over to the bassist's house for a bite to eat and a rest. Eh? and I went back to my place for another mixer; I wanted a more sophisticated mixer for the evening's show. We enjoyed a delightful dinner prepared by Heidi, my sweetie. I even managed to have a brief nap.

Then off to the Royal Oak on the Canal for the evening show. That show ran 9:30 PM to 1:30ish AM and went just fine, thanks.

Anyhow, if you see me looking a little the worse for wear over the next couple of days, that's my excuse. I fully expect that the band members will have slept many hours to try to recover.

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Tonight, March 10, 2007, will be the inaugural performance of Streets of Hours, a free-improvisational duo consisting of yours truly (as Merril Street, apparently) and my good friend Hours Durve, making noises and possibly even playing music.

We're performing at the Avant Garde Bar and Gift Shop at 135 1/2 Besserer Street in Ottawa. We're supporting My Tiny Circus, Ottawa's premier lounge-core band.

Show time is 9:00 PM, we're on 'til 9:30 or they pull the plug on us. Our intent is to go up and see just how irritating we can be. Isn't that the point of free-improvisation, after all?

Best comment so far about our act:

"So what would be the difference then between your act and two people too lazy to rehearse?"

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Many of you know that I have had a love-hate relationship with Volkswagen. Loving them enough that I've had five of the dang things: and hating them enough that I'll never own another VW product (I feel that they did me dirt with that last one, the Fox, my first and so far only new car, which was in the shop 28 times in the 26 months that I owned it). Want more info? Ask in the comments, I'll write it up.

That said, I saw this, and figured I had to tell everybody about it.

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