Internet at Home!


I still had to go to school today, because I’m playing a piece tomorrow night at the Ikon Gallery, (7:00 PM) and my supervisor wanted me to verify that it would work on the computer that’s going to the gig. I left Xena tied in the hallway, in a gesture to the no-dogs-in-studios rule. This failed to appease the studio manager who spoke to me about it while I seethed with unreasonable rage. I showed enough restraint not to drop out of school on the spot.
Why so stressed? I dunno. It sucks that Nicole has left. And I was biking to get my cell phone back from the unlocker when a car came closer to my person than I think I’ve ever experienced before. Even when the truck hit me last summer, it didn’t feel as close. And this was much higher speed. My bike is as big as a motorcycle, so I don’t understand why cars don’t give me as much room as they’d give a motorcycle. Or maybe they do, which is also alarming. I felt shaken up. I went to a bike shop to get a day-glo safety vest, but they didn’t have anything that wasn’t hugely gigantic.
they were next to a pet store and I finally have a phone number, so I went to see about getting Xena some tags. The guy at the store told me that dog-theft is rampant in the Midlands! People steal dogs left and right and demand ransom or sell them for vivisection or use them as bait dogs to train pitbulls to attack! I shouldn’t leave my dog outside of the supermarket unless I’ve locked her with a lock! Some of his customers had pets stolen! Somebody once brought in a stolen pet for grooming! The guy behind me in line said his cat had been stolen!
Good fucking god.
So if I don’t get flattened by a car, my dog is certainly to be stolen or at least threaten health and safety in the music studios. Girls scream and run away when I walk her. What’s up with that? I mean, college women, especially ones displaying cleavage and drunk sort of fall over themselves trying to pet her, but younger ones and ones with higher necklines are terrified.
In other news, My ‘installation’ is terrible and I’m scrapping it. I wasted like 30 hours on it. I was at school until 11:30 trying to make it less dull. I almost succeeded, but not at all. The only thing that could make it a worse disaster is to spend more time on it. I’ve got the anti-midas touch right now.

Art is supposed to be some sort of window to the soul or something right. Does it say something that I tried to create something that took patience to appreciate? That started invisibly and crept up on you until it became a short speaker-murdering wail of feedback? I tried it with Pink Noise at first. Then I was walking towards the studios and heard somebody running it! How could this be?! But then I realized that what I heard was a leaking toilet in the men’s room. Yeah, so I tried switching the sound source to formant synthesis. And I ended up with something approximating a flock of deranged ducks. Which is not interesting for more than a few seconds at the most. So I switched to a tape loop of Bill OReily talking about falafels. No! Talking about lesbian gangs terrorizing innocent straight men. First, I thought the three minute long segment was laughably silly. The pink pistols are a GAY MEN’s self-defense group. Why would lesbians carry pink guns? Sheesh. But then I realized that the “gangs” he was talking about were victims of hate crimes who tried to defend themselves but then got arrested and sent to prison for it. Listening to this 381260421364 times is not happy. Which is why I swore no more of these pundit pieces, right. Anyway, it was still boring, so I quit.
I told the bit about the running toilet to Scott and he agreed that perhaps abandoning it was for the best. He is a really, really, really nice guy. He could tell how pissed I was and offered to dog sit and try talking to people, etc etc etc. He’s much too nice to be a supervisor of postgrads. He’s doomed to bitterness.
Maybe tomorrow will be fun.
In even further afield news, my brother is moving to Beaverton, Oregon. I have mixed feelings about this. Among them: Hey, only I get to move away from California! The rest of you have to stay there awaiting my return, so when I finally come back, I can pick up right where I left off! I demand that my friends continue to meet in our old hangouts on our old nights and somberly remember me by ordering a pint of cask-pulled ale and pouring it solemnly on the ground in memory of their exiled homie.

Weekend Report

The lounge with the electrical plugs and the wifi is shut and locked on weekends! I sat outside of it on a bench and checked a few email messages, but my laptop battery is not young, so I had to quit before I could post anything to my blog. I went inside the computer music labs and they don’t have internet access. You can get to a server, but not outside. Ok, I see why you wouldn’t want people using music lab computers to read comics, but they also can’t get to online help files either.

So I sat in the lab, waiting for my battery to recharge and staring squarely at my navel, when another postgrad came by. His name is Zack (I think) and he’s also after a PhD. He’s also a SuperCollider guy and also left behind from the Copenhagen trip. He asked me what I was up to and I whined that I was all alone in the world (woe is me), so we went out for a beer that evening.

I told him that I’d see him at school again today, but I didn’t go in. While I was navel gazing, I got an idea for a multi channel piece and I thought I’d get a stereo version working and then go add channels. But I haven’t been able to get a stereo version going.

So while I’ve been debugging my code, I’ve been trying to make a playlist of makeout music that I think Cola would like. Shockingly, this side project is not making me feel less lonely. Maybe I should write a makeout music generator to rival Nick Collins’ JPop generator. I need samples of women singing “uhgh” and “ooh” and all those sorta sexy R&B vocals. Anyway. What’s your favorite makeout music and why? Leave a comment. (Anybody that says Stimmung has to sit facing the corner for an hour.)

The piece that I’m actually working on uses feedback. It’s got a comb filter and it also feeds back into the whole synthdef. I use a and I track the amplitude with an RMS. There’s a tiny amount of noise going into the circuit and it builds up very slowly through feedback. When it gets above a threshold a bunch of envelopes start going and everything gets zeroed out. I multiply the output of the comb by zero and the input of the comb by zero and the noise by zero and set the comb’s feedback to zero. Heck, I zero the buffer that the comb filter uses. There are zeros everywhere. So when I lift the zeros, it should sound like I’m restarting it from the beginning, right? No! It very quickly builds up past the threshold and zeros again and builds quickly and zeros and builds quickly. I don’t get it.

From Last Week

Nicole left very early yesterday morning, alas. By the time I post this, she will (hopefully) be in California. I spent all yesterday morning feeling sorry for myself, but eventually roused myself into action, at least to answer the door when my last delivery of boxes arrived.

My next door neighbor came over while I chatted with the delivery guy and Xena ran around loose. The neighbor chastised me because he had found dog shit on his driveway the day previous. “It wasn’t my dog.” I said, which was true as that the first and only time Xena has ever been allowed off leash on the street. It was like he didn’t hear me, so I repeated it. He clearly thought I was lying. He wanted an apology. meh.

I set up my bedroom studio and it looks pretty good, but during shipping, the bolts came unscrewed in one of my synthesizer cases and the modules got slightly battered by bouncing and the loose screws. My favorite module, the MOTM 440 low pass filter, suffered visible damage. One of the knobs had come loose and the back cover of it broke off and now it catches when I turn it. I took it to school and asked the lab assistant about it. He lent me some tools and I re-tightened it and he told me to take it home and see if it worked. I screwed it back into the case, but I still haven’t tried turning it on as I have fears of it suddenly catching fire or something equally unlikely. The moral of this story is to use the correct mounting brackets and not try to fake it with just bolts and washers. Or if you do try to fake it, tighten them before you ship. And then tighten them again before you strap them to your bike and pedal them home. And don’t put it on a rack where it will bounce around a lot, but in the trailer.

Speaking of which, my trailer is also broken. I think it’s from running into stuff and not from carrying around my synthesizer. It’s wide and it sticks out on one side and lord knows i’ve bashed it into things a bunch of times. Anyway, it has a spring attaching the hitch part to the main part, so the spring lets it swivel some. the spring, however, is sprung. I think this is easily fixable. By somebody with tools.

My supervisor and all of my colleagues are off in Copenhagen, putting on a concert with an array of 80 speakers. They call this system BEAST. Apparently, I’m going to be a part of BEAST in the future, but for now, the only people I know in town are my housemates. They’re nice people. But I have no friends here except for my dog, who is nice, but doesn’t talk much and has a disturbing tendency to roll in horrible things she finds in the park.

I read Fingersmith last night. It’s a thick book by Sarah Waters. It has a really good plot twist in it. And unlike the last book by her that I read, the lesbians don’t die in the end. The book is kind of sexy, actually. So I woke up this morning feeling even more sorry for myself than yesterday.

I’ve read a lot of fiction lately, after a long run of none at all. The downside to this is that after I read a lot and sit by myself, I start narrating my life to myself in my head (c’mon, you know you do it too, sometimes) and as I’ve read two novels placed in the Victorian era recently and I’m in England, I’ve begun narrating to myself as if I were some sort of bloody Victorian (you see that “bloody” there? alas). I guess as long as I keep it to myself, it’s not a big deal, but as you can see, it’s sprung out and effected my blog, and thus yourselves, dear readers. . . . (Are those crickets I hear? Damn.)

The weather has been sunny the last two days, and thus at odds with my disposition, which is for the best. I need to find a book shelf, I think. I went to two charity shops today. I thought this term “charity shop” meant something like the Goodwill store in the US, and there is a passing resemblance in that they both seem to involve used clothes. But either I went to the wrong two shops or the similarity sort of runs out there. The “charity” part seems to just refer to the owners of the shop. The might sell a lot of new stuff. And the people working there seem to be normal shop keepers or maybe volunteers, I don’t know, but they’re not getting the sort of job training that folks at Goodwill are getting. No scent of lisol. No air of poverty. Maybe I went to the wrong shops.

The locals here are friendly and are getting gradually more intelligible. I’ve been talking with other dog owners in the park. And when I was strapping horrible, cheap dollar-store plastic junk to my bike, a bicycle enthusiast approached me to talk about old fashioned delivery bikes and the hilliness of Birmingham. When you look around you from where you’re standing, it looks flat. But there are valleys everywhere. There is a nice, light Danish city bike that I want, but can’t presently afford, nor do I have parking space for it. I’ve been daydreaming of putting a bike rack in the driveway. I’ve got myself convinced that it’s a great idea.

Now, however, it’s a great idea to stop typing and go do something else.


55a Frederick Rd
Selly Oak
B29 6NX
Great Britain

Actually, I’m, alas, uncertain about the last line there. Should it say “England?” “United Kingdom?” Or what? I live in England, and I know it’s a small part of the whole country, much like Holland is but two provinces of the Netherlands. But what is the name of the country in which I live? What’s the difference between “United Kingdom” and “Great Britain?
While I’m on these sorts of questions: What’s a licenced restaurant? What’s an off-licence shop? Does “going around with your dog” mean brining her to the country or just to that particular establishment? How did I end up in a city with even worse weather than The Hague? Why are posh british accents like nails on a chalkboard? It doesn’t matter if they look out the window and just say, “oh, it’s raining again” I want to bash them with my laptop and shout “shut up, you insufferable twit!” but maybe that’s what comes of eating tiny, cheap jelly donuts for breakfast and the resultant sugar crash.
In other news, my dog is a health and safety violation. Um, because she’s rabid and will rip your throat out. And she covers floors with all sorts of dirt and germs that could not have found it’s way indoors through any other means, especially not shoe bottoms.
I’m so dumb. Never ask permission! Just do it and when somebody tells you that it’s not allowed say that you’ve already been doing it for weeks with no problem.
This country is extremely paranoid. I mean, I’m glad to finally live someplace where they’ve heard of smoke alarms. But the sheer number of fire regulations here . . . all explained to me in detail. I had to ask if the building burst into flame every tuesday. They act as if EVERYTHING is a ticking time bomb. The building will burn to the ground any moment now. the dog will go mad an attack. The kids will go mad and attack (why else are there so many stupid surveillance cameras in the student lounge?)


Yesterday, the first business day of my Birmingham residency, I got my student ID card and worked out how to get on the campus wifi network with my laptop, but, alas, not my n800. Given the way the network manager (doesn’t) work, I dispair of ever getting my n800 onto the network.

Then I went to the sole rehearsal for the John Cage piece Lecture on the Weather which I will be performing in on October 12. For those of you unfamiliar with this piece, it was commissioned by the CBC (Canadian National Radio) in honor of the American Bicentenial and premiered in New York in 1975. Scott, my supervisor, explained that the CBC New Music folks were a bunch of Vietnam War draft dodgers, which explains why Canada was celebrating the spirit of ’76. (America declared independence from England in 1776. “Spirit of ’76” refers to this declaration.)

The piece is made up of text and squiggly lines. The squiggly lines are treated much like Scratch Music. The text comes from Henry David Thoreau and includes random selections from Walden, Journal and Essay on Civil Disobedience. Cage points out in his preface that the last of those inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. The first of those names, especially, might explain why NONE of the Brits in the piece had ever heard of Thoreau.

One of the greatest philosophers in the United States completely unknown here. Good gods.

I don’t know how I feel about the piece. The text is ok. Actually, it’s alarming how much it continues to resonate. I just read the novel Affinity by Waters (author of Fingersmith) and it’s largely about mistreatment of women in prison in the UK, 30 years later than Thoreau. I can read that and think “thank gods they fixed those problems! It’s a great relief that it’s not like that anymore.” But when I read Thoreau, I think, “Arg, nothing has changed.” Constitutional originalists continue to plague the land. The US continues to wage aggressive wars. Our taxes are still used for evil.

But it’s just weird hearing it read in British accents. by people who have no idea what they’re reading. Who hear the phrase “Walden” and think nothing. Who say “Concord” and have no association with it.

Anyway, after rehearsal, I got access to the school studios and a bank account. Yes, a bank account on my first day here. I’d feel very proud of myself, except that they really bent the rules for me, but were unreasonably strict when it came to the many Chinese students waiting in line. Racist bastards. After I get my student visa, I’m switching banks. In the meantime, though, I need a bank.

I feel disappointed with myself. I should have probably told them to fuck off. But, complicating my perceptions, the gate keeper who was giving a hard time to the Chinese students was white, but the guy who actually opened my bank account was black and had Jamaican parents. He was wearing a wrist band praising Marcus Garvey, one of the 117 national heroes of Jamaica.

Today: cell phone unlock, household crap, make posters advertising music commissions.

I’m raising my prices to £10 ($20.25-ish). Order before the prices go up!

The move

The following post was typed on Sunday evening

I decided to delay my ferry trip to the overnight ferry, which turned out to be a very good idea. The day ferry wouldn’t have disembarked until 23:00 and getting from Harwich to Birmingham at that hour would have been exhausting. Not that six hours of sleep in a tiny bunk on a big boat wasn’t also exhausting.

Fortunately, all of Xena’s paperwork was more or less adequately in order. There was much todo because there was no written record of what date she got her microchip inserted. The fact that it was detectable and the number matched the reported number was not enough information. I offered to call my vet in California and ask, but instead the person checking suggested that I might suddenly remember the date and write it down. It came to me in a flash. Sort of. More or less. Anyway, Xena cleared immigration.

I should back up a bit here in my story. The ferry left from Hoek van Holland (“the Hook of Holland”), which is a bit more than 20km south of Den Haag. There is a very nice bike route that goes along the sand dunes to get there. Very pretty. We opted not to take it because the non-pretty route is flatter and less windy and I was carrying probably 100 kilos of stuff. No really. My bike is, um, not made of carbon fiber. I had a backpack in one saddle bag, which contained two computers and a whole lot of cables. A backpacking backpack on the back rack which contained all my paperwork, a synthesizer component (specifically a sherman filter bank), a sleeping bag, a bunch of camping gear and more cables. On the front, I had the giant basket I got for moving Xena around. She doesn’t like it much, but the basket itself is still handy. For example, in this case, I fileld it up with all of Xena’s dog stuff (toys, pillow, food, ceramic bowl, the door to her crate, etc) and also a bottle of Czech communion wine, a bottle of abscinthe, a small bottle of african compari, um, yeah. And finally, I was towing Xena herself, with the two halves of her crate stuck over the trailer.

It was rather much. When we got to our cabin on the boat, I passed out almost immediately.

The Mayflower left from Harwich. When the Pilgrims got tired of Leiden, they went back to Harwich and sailed for America. What’s little known is that they were actually supposed to leave a year earlier than they finally set out, but they got delayed by the confusing and contradictory signage.

The British immigration guy did a bit of a double take when he saw our bikes and the amount of crap on them, but we got through much more easily than I expected. It was way better than when I came two weeks ago. Then we got horribly lost and biked in large circles trying to get to the train station. Also, everything was bloody backwards. Cars on the wrong side is a lot to deal with at 6:30 am. (Okay, 7:00. Fine, 7:30, but still . . ..)

The train ticket from Harwich to Birmingham cost as much as the ferry. I saw a sign yesterday for a flight to Spain and a round trip airplane ticket from Grenoble cost less than a train ticket from Harwich to Birmingham. About half-as-much less, not just a few pence less. (I’m imagining them trying to get from London to Cardiff and going via Iceland because it’s cheaper.) (This is all Thatcher’s fault, but that’s a later blog post.)

We arrived in London and Nicole procured a bike map of the city. We had to get from Liverpool St Station to Euston Station in 1.25 hours. No problem, there are even bike signs up around the city. No problem until . . . that sound I hear could not possibly be the sound of hissing, rotating around like a Leslie speaker. Um, damn.

The back tire of my Dutch bike completely deflated in a few minutes. Some of the Londoners didn’t quite understand what “Dutch” means in this context. It means that my back tire has a fender, a shirt guard, saddlebags, a chain guard and a few other pieces of flat metal designed to keep me out of contact with the tire. Also, the bike is gigantic. It’s the Cadillac of dutch bikes. Meaning it rides nice, but it’s big, heavy, inefficient and hard to find parking for.

After a long while I found a bike shop, who agreed to fix my bike. But then freaked out when they saw the size of it. Apparently, it wouldn’t even fit in their workspace. (What, is their work space on the 7.5th floor?) They sent me to another bike shop who said they could do it on Monday. Sob story. sob story, ok come back in an hour. “Those chain guards are a real pain in the arse.” “Yeah, but they keep grease off my pants. [long pause] trousers! trousers!” (for Brits, pants = jockey shorts.)

It was then that I passed off the dog trailer to Nicole, who was aghast at the amount of stuff I was hauling. Not that her load was light. I’d say it was more or less even when she had the trailer. Anyway, the rest of our trip was pretty unremarkable.

We got to my flat and my key didn’t work in the front door. Fortunately, my flatmate was home and recognized me from our very brief meeting two weeks ago. He’s terrified of dogs. So is his sister, who is my other flatmate. They want Xena to stay in my room all the time. I’m hoping their fear decreases. Meanwhile, Xena is terrified of the stairs. She’ll go up them, but shakes in terror when asked to descend. There’s a climate of fear around here.

My room is large. It has a big bed and a table and a bed-side table and weird modular closet stuff in the closet. The bed has a pink upholstered headboard. the bed actually has a good mattress. Since arriving, I’ve spent most of my time asleep on it.

When I go out, I cannot decipher the Brum accent at all. It was actually easier to communicate in the Netherlands because there when it became impossible, I could ask “Sprekt U engels?” and we’d switch to something I could understand. What am I going to ask the Brits to switch to? I can’t understand my housemates either. I think they’re from Nigeria, but I should ask.

Things to do tomorrow:

  • Go to my letting agent and exchange October rent for a working key.
  • Go to school and get an ID card and get on the network
  • Purchase dog food
  • Purchase a bathmat and two waste baskets
  • Find an ISP
  • New tag for dog
  • Unlock cell + new SIM

Flying to Birmingham

I’ll be in Birmingham tomorrow (Saturday) and back in The Hague on Sunday night for my last week here. My plan for this weekend is to find a flat and over the next week, I plan to put my things in boxes and lug them to the post office. And also go to the SuperCollider con in The Hague.

I am visualizing what I want: It’s £300 / month or less including utilities. It’s 8 km or less from school along a reasonable bike route. The folks who live there like dogs. They’re easygoing with a nice vibe. There may be more than one of them. They are relaxed. The room is big enough to hold me, my dog and my gear. There is internet in the house. My room has a window. It has wood floors or other hard material. The house is in good repair, especially the plumbing. The ‘fridge works. There is a good place to park my bikes.
I can be flexible about some of these points. Do you live in Birmingham? Are you looking for a flatmate? Send me email, quick!
I spent hours of my life yesterday looking at flat ads on a service that i’ve subscribed to and sending email to the folks listed there and I’ve gotten exactly one response – a no.
I guess I can just mail everything to school and deal with it later, in case of disaster.

This is Xena

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Happy Dog, originally uploaded by celesteh.

As you can see, my dog is very cute. Check out how her back legs are sprawled out, frog-like. This is how she normally sits, when she sits. It means she can’t spring up too quickly. Which is ok, as she rarely springs up. A more typical portrait would have her lying down asleep.
(maybe I should get her thyroid checked, actually.)
Not that she doesn’t run around when appropriate. When this picture was taken, she had just finished chasing a ball around in the woods. So fun! So cute! But indoors, she’s more sleepy. And very quiet. She only barks when a stranger is trying to come inside by themselves. (Useful) Or if she’s tied up outside a grocery store.
If you look very closely at this photo, you will fail to find evidence of fleas or ticks. Not only because the resolution isn’t anywhere near good enough, but because she gets a treatment every month which rids her of pests and protects her against heart worm.
So, if you, in Edgbaston, East Midlands, England, who has a free room in your flat, were to rent to me, you would have a very cute pet around and a bit of additional security, but with no responsibility. You could get all the belly rubs you wanted, or let her sleep (she’s not pushy at all) and never have to pick up after her. Really, it’s perfect for you.
Did I mention that she’s small?
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Posing on Pagoda, originally uploaded by celesteh.

Trite observations

I’m in England. Every time I need to cross a road, I look back and forth in panicked confusion and run for it. I heard on the BBC radio today that there is a new tax on fags. I was momentarily alarmed, but then I figured that my crush on my dog sitter probably wouldn’t be enough to change my bracket. (You expect these sorts of confusions in a foreign language “attend” in french, “becoming” in german, but it’s quite startling when it’s your native language.)

I have not been admitted to Birmingham at this point, but I think I will be, gods willing. I went to a colloquium after having 2916491728 espressos today and participated more than anybody else, which Cola (who also went) said was probably a good thing. So if they have space, I’m probably in. Funding is another issue.
The town, which I haven’t seen that much of yet, seems kind of run down in parts, but it’s not like Middletown or anything. It’s the second largest city in the UK, so I have good hopes. Also, it’s only 1.5 hours to London and the hours of coursework expected of me would be 0. I might commute. However, there are lots of big, nice parks around and I think Xena would really like it here. I don’t know what’s up with me, but I really miss her when I’m away from her for more than a few hours. She’s just a dog, but she’s my dog and I wish I could take her with me everywhere.

Off to Birmingham

I’m going tomorrow morning to visit Birmingham. I applied to the University there and I’m having an interview. Hopefully they will let me in.

I failed to realize how soon this trip was looming and failed to find free lodging for myself, but found some for my dog at about 23:15. Thank gods.
Why Birmingham? Well, everybody says it’s SuperCollider heaven. I’ve only ever heard good things. Several people told me to apply. So I did. I haven’t done other things like read a prospectus or apply for funding or even discover how expensive the tuition is (yeah, I forgot Britain is stupid in the same ways that the US is and so education is probably ridiculously over-priced). £9,200 ack.
Early flight, off to bed.