On Tools & Results

Some people love to focus on their tools — photography comes to mind.

I don’t own any photography equipment that’s nicer than my iPhone. For me, always having a camera on me is much more worthwhile than having a very nice camera and lens set that gets left at home because it’s harder to carry.

I don’t own any film cameras, and I don’t own a DSLR (although I might rent something if I’m going someplace that I expect to be particularly photogenic). I have nothing against nice cameras, and one day I will get one with a good lens so that I can take pictures with a foreground and a background, but until then, I’m content to take pictures like these:

Artsy photo

I’m not the only person who thinks this way. Here’s a walkthrough of the difference between pictures from cameras that cost $150 and $5,000.

I like when Ice Cube talks about how Mr & Mrs Eames took advantage of what they had. It’s easy to impress people by working with the best tools and supplies. If they had one-of-a-kind, oversize glass panes custom-produced for the house, it would naturally be impressive to many people. Instead, by using ordinary ingredients, and treating them skillfully, they create something impressive to untrained eyes, and they get respect from pros, because the only thing really used was skill.

You see the same pattern in other areas, food, for example. There’s an episode of Kitchen Nightmares (UK) where Gordon Ramsay trains a chef on how to make oxtail delicious — and he explicitly says that it’s always a sign of a talented chef who can take a plain and ordinary ingredient, and turn it into a delicious meal. In addition, it’s an easy way to make a nice profit: cheap ingredients, impressive results. (There’s a corollary here: it’s not what you’re drinking, it’s who you’re drinking it with)

Or in life…what’s more impressive? The child of an upper class family, educated in private schools, who goes onto become a Senator; or the child who grows up in urban projects, fought and struggled to succeed, and becomes a Senator. There’s a reason we love rags-to-riches stories in America — it ties into our belief that with the right skill and attitude, you can take ordinary inputs and produce extraordinary results.

I’m sure there are many other areas that I’m not thinking of where this pattern repeats.

I don’t mean to knock an investment in tools. Even Gordon Ramsay would have a difficult time trimming a steak if all he had was a butter knife. Or a spork. Ansel Adams would probably notice if you gave him a cheap camera. A good tool has a multiplier effect — it takes the level of skill and makes the result better. But that still means that if you want to see an improvement in results, as long as the tool is “good enough”, you’re better off focusing on improving your skills — the improvement in skills will continue to be multiplied by the good tool, and you’ll have gained something that can’t be taken away.

Or to be lighthearted about it: it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it that counts. 😉

On being a white rap fan.

When singing (or in this case, rapping) along with Kanye, do we say a certain racially insensitive word or do we censor ourselves?

Valid arguments were made for both sides.

Saying the N-word
Pro: Remaining true to Kanye’s artistic vision, saying his words, each of them, exactly as he intended, even the ones that might not be so artistic.
Con: Inciting a full-scale race riot and/or getting our arses kicked.

Not saying the N-word
Pro: Showing our support at the ugliness of the word, the hatred of a term filled with venom.
Con: Drawing even more attention to the word as a mostly white audience goes mute, leaving only Kanye to say it, thus inciting a full-scale race riot and/or getting our arses kicked.

We ultimately decided to self-censor, but we also faced another dilemma: what word do we say in its place? Sure, Kanye helped us with “Now I ain’t saying she’s a golddigger, but she ain’t messing with no broke, broke,” but there was nothing to save us from Jesus Walks’ lyrics in which restless (N-words) might snatch your necklace or jack your Lexus before being told who Kanye West is.

Rap music is all about the rhythm and flow of the words, so it’s not really possible to just replace the N-word with a more politically correct term – “Now I ain’t saying she’s a golddiger, but she ain’t messing with no broke African-Americans.”

Rap Concerts Can Pose A Problem

I feel like this is a real problem for white rap fans.

Eminem doesn’t drop n-bombs. Chamillionaire also stopped cursing — and his records don’t feel like they’ve been toned down.

But megastars like Kanye and Jay Z haven’t. Not to mention that even if they did, there’s a long legacy of music that we aren’t going back and re-cutting, like some rap version of George Lucas, trying to uncover the “original artistic vision”.

I’ve personally started using ‘brother’ in my head since it’s the most reasonable approximation that doesn’t destroy the continuity (“Where’d you get the beauty scar, tough guy? Eating pineapple?”), ends in -er, and it’s not terrible for rhymes that require the hard ‘g’ sound. Plus, in “Golddigger”, you get a nice consonance on the ‘b’: “I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger, but she ain’t messin with no broke brother”.

I do think this is interesting, because racism is an issue that’s gone on for generations, and I wonder if things like Kanye saying “okay just this once” is a way of breaking the ice and improving the social (not economic) situation. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses over the next 40 years.

Everything Is A Remix (including this blog post)

Thanks to Bob at Meta for suggesting this. This is beyond cool. Watch it all.

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 3 was just released, so Part 4 should be out in another 2-3 months.

Al Qaeda is to explosions as MTV is to music.

I’m finally getting around to reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. I opened it this morning on the drive to work (Chas drove, not me), and in the first 20 pages, I read something that I wanted to share before I get started with my day.

In the six years since 9/11, Al Qaeda Central — the group led by Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri — has been unable to launch a major attack anywhere. It was a terrorist organization; it has become a communications compnay, producing the occasional videotape rather than actual terrorism. *

* Even if an attack were to take place tomorrow, the fact that, for six years, Al Qaeda Central has been unable to organize one explosion anywhere is surely worth noting.

Al Qaeda is to explosions as MTV is to music. Or, Al Qaeda : explosions :: MTV : music


Discount Rock Star

Somebody bought Josh Freese’s $20,000 album package. This is fantastic news for two reasons.

One, people understand the value that we as rock stars* are offering.

Two, Josh now has already made enough money to purchase all of my album packages combined, for the small sum of $11,432.20

Honestly, I think the coolest possible outcome of this would be that Mr. Freese himself actually does purchase a copy of my album. I’m hoping he goes for at least the $100 one. Josh: If you are reading this, and are going to be back in Orlando soon, we should hang out. Call me.

(*I may not actually be a rock star at the time of publishing. Josh Freese is, and between the two of us, I’m rounding up)

Buy my album!

I’m proud to announce the release of promotional packages for my upcoming album. Some of you may have heard of Josh Freese, who has drummed with more groups than I care to list, including NIN, Devo, and A Perfect Circle. He has a line of packages to accompany his album. I figure since I’m (almost) a drummer, I should take inspiration from him.

One note: based on my currently limited drumming skills, and reduced access to famous people, I figure I’m about 10% as cool as Josh Freese, so I’m going adjust the package costs accordingly. There are even bonus items that Josh won’t or can’t give you. This will definitely be a way more affordable deal than Mr. Fancy Pants “I’m actually a talented drummer” is offering.

A second note: I have not recorded an album, nor written a song, ever.  But I will eventually. It might even be about you.

Email me, tim [at] timrosenblatt.com with the package you’re interested in.

70 cents (Josh’s $7 package)

  • You will get a digital copy of my upcoming album. I promise to keep a list and send you a digital copy when I eventually release it.

$1.50 (Josh’s $15 package)

  • You will get a digital copy of my upcoming album, as well as a physical CD/DVD.

$5 (Josh’s $50 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt. I don’t have an official design yet, but I’m handy with Sharpie markers and will do something custom.
  • THANK YOU phone call, from me, for buying. You can tell me what you like, or what you thought sucked…Ask whatever you like” Is maynard really that weird?”or”Which of Stings mansions has the comfiest bed?” or ” Are DEVO really suburban robots who monitor Reality, or just a bunch of Dads from Ohio?” or “Why don’t the Vandals play more stuff off the first record?” Honestly, I’ve never hung out with any of these people, so my answers will be best guesses. Questions that you’re likely to get good answers to are things like “What is a NP-complete problem?”, “What data should be stored on an association table for a Rails project?”, and “What do you consider the best way to cook a steak?”. Alternately, you can save up this call for a future date, when I’m able to hook up some better answers.But, it is your five minutes to yack it up- Talk about whatever you want!

$25 (Josh’s $250 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt. I don’t have an official design yet, but I’m handy with Sharpie markers
  • Signed drum head and drumsticks
  • We have lunch together at Winter Park Village’s PF Chang’s or The Cheesecake Factory

$50 (Josh’s $500 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt. Still no design, but I’ll buy a fresh pack of Sharpies, both colored and metallic, and make you one.
  • Signed Cymbal and sticks.
  • Meet me in Orlando, FL, and I’ll sneak you into the YMCA where I work out & swim. It will help if you look like me, so I can get you in with my ID. Otherwise, there’s a good chance we’ll be jumping a big fence/wall. For a slight upgrade fee, I will get you a day pass and you can walk in the front door. We will float in the pool with our eyes closed, which will get filmed and posted on YouTube. Alternately, you can upgrade (at cost) to meet me in Venice, CA and we go floating in a Sensory Deprivation Tank (filmed and posted on youtube).
  • Dinner at Sizzler (get your $8.99 Steak and “all you can eat” Shrimp on).

$100 (Josh’s $1,000 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt. See above note.
  • Signed Cymbal, Drum head and Drumsticks.
  • Tim washes your car OR does your laundry….or you can wash his car.
  • Have dinner with Tim at the Lobster Feast on I-Drive. We will audibly make fun of the tourists.
  • Get drunk and cut each other’s hair in the parking lot of the Orange County (that’s Orlando) courthouse (filmed and posted on youtube of course). Dustin will probably come to town for this and help. Honestly, I hope you go for at least this level of package. I might throw this one in for the higher packages too.
  • We will watch some drum videos on youtube. Also some snowboarding vids.

$250 (Josh’s $2,500 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt
  • I give you a drum lesson. Honestly, I’m still learning this whole drumming thing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least 300 hours of practice, so I can teach you about paradiddles, flams, and some limb coordination. So as to not totally rip you off, I will have an actual drummer friend join for the lesson, and teach us some shit. Or (for all you non-drummers) I’ll give you a back and foot massage (couples welcome).
  • Pick any 1 member of the Vandals or DEVO (subject to availability) to accompany you and I to one of Orlando’s attractions. Keep in mind, I’ve never actually met any of them, so basically, I’m going to be writing them a nice letter and asking them to come and chill. I’m somewhat of a cool person, and hopefully you are too, so I think if they’re in the area, there’s a good chance this will work. If there’s another person you’d like to meet instead, I’ll work on hooking that up.
  • A signed snare drum. Given the ultra discount that you’re getting, the snare drum may not be in great condition.
  • Take 3 items of your choice out of my closet (first come, first serve). If it’s a box, you must empty it out before you take it. No cheating by claiming a full box is a single item.
  • Change cat litter with Tim. At your option, we can also water my plants and feed my fish.
  • I will buy a TV and we (you, Dustin, and myself) will take turns throwing it off the roof of Dustin’s vehicle. Alternately, Caleb (multi-time burn-out champion) will show you how to correctly body slam a car, and do 180s with the parking brake.

$500 (Josh’s $5,000 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download
  • T-shirt
  • I write a song entirely about you and put it up on iTunes (also on upcoming record that I’m working on now). I’ve never put a song on iTunes, but I’ll figure it out. Also, I’ve never written a song before, so maybe you’d prefer I write a song about someone you don’t like.
  • Then you and I “co-direct” a video for the song I write and throw it on youtube
  • I give you and a friend a private tour of Disney World.
  • Get drunk together. If you don’t drink we can go to Lake Eola and look at/talk to homeless people.
  • Stone from Pearl Jam might you a letter telling you about his favorite song that Tim has listened to. Again, I’ve never met him, but I’ll work something out.
  • If you play drums (or want to), we will attend a private drum lesson from the drummer for the Blue Man Group.

$1000 (Josh’s $10,000 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt
  • I will get you on the radio one way or another. It might be ClearChannel, it might be UCF radio. But, you’ll get airtime. We’ll also see how much of my music we can have them play before kicking us out. Alternatively, I’ll bring some music that I didn’t create, but do like. They’ll probably play some of that.
  • I will get you a picture from A Perfect Circle’s 2000-2001 tour. I will sign it. I’ll see if I can get you a piece of music equipment from their tour, which I will also sign.
  • I will get you a ringtone of my friend Greg laughing. It’s a seriously infectious laugh.
  • Drum lesson or his and hers foot/back massage.
  • We go to lunch at a Disney restaurant. It might be a super exclusive, private restaurant at Disney World, or it might not be. We will hit a couple rides afterwards, preferably the Tower Of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, The Tiki Room and The Haunted Mansion.
  • At the end of the day at Disney, I will let you drive away in my Hyundai. You do not get to keep it. You will drive away with me in it. It’s got a few years — I’ve driven over 140k miles — on it, but I’ve taken really good care of it, and is definitely worth more than $1000. We can negotiate a deal if you’re interested though.
  • We will take kite surfing lessons in Miami. It will be filmed and posted on youtube.

$2000 (Josh’s $20,000 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt
  • I will get you a picture from the 2008 NIN tour. I will sign it. I’ll see if I can get you a piece of music equipment from their tour, which I will also sign.
  • Maynard James Keenan, Mark Mothersbaugh from DEVO and I take you miniature golfing and then drop you off on the side of the freeway (all filmed and posted on youtube of course). Again, I don’t know these guys and they don’t know me. I will still put my best efforts into getting us hooked up. If this falls through, I will substitute some very cool friends of mine, and we’ll throw down.If you don’t like miniature golf, we will get some beers and hit balls at the driving range with Rex (aka “drunk driving”).
  • I give you a tour of Orlando. I’ll show ya my first apartment, the cannon we fired on the UCF campus, the house I rented (entertaining you with appropriate stories), and the place we went off-roading in Dustin’s jeep during a hurricane. I’ll take you out for some really great tacos. Also, Josh Freese is from Orlando. If you go for this package, I will buy the $50 Josh Freese package, ask him where he was born, and show you it.
  • For an extra $5, the tour will be on the back of my motorcycle. For another $2.50, I’ll show you the section of the park that the homeless people have taken over.
  • We will spend the night camping in Ocala National Forest with some of my friends. There’s a sweet place that no one else knows about. Separate sleeping bags, of course…no spooning. There could be bears. We’ll tie the food up in a tree.
  • I write 2 songs about you (or if you want 1 can be about you and the other one can be about whatever or whomever you’d like) and it goes on my next record (you can sing back up on them, clap, play the drums, triangle solo…whatever you want). Given that I’ve never released a record, this “next record” will be my debut record. Again, I’ll let you evaluate my talent before we record, and give you the option to have them be songs about people you don’t like.
  • Drum lesson OR foot and back massage (once again…..couples welcome).
  • Pick any 3 items out of my closet. Full boxes don’t count. I have some cool shirts.
  • I will train for a triathalon and complete in it with you. If you aren’t inclined to move under your own power, while swimming I will tow you in an inflatable chair; while biking, pedal a 2-person bike; and while running, pull you in some kind of rickshaw.

$7500 (Josh’s $75,000 package)

  • Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
  • T-shirt
  • Come out on tour with me for a few days. Strictly speaking, I don’t have an actual touring schedule. But, I’ll put one together for a few days. We may end up jamming in the park on one of these days, but I will get us playing in a bar/club at least once.
  • I write, record and market a 5 song EP about you and your life story.
  • I will let you take my cat to the mall. He will have a lion cut, and will wear his leash. He is irresistable, and will help you pick up a member of the opposite sex. Or the same. Whatever you’re into.
  • Take home any of my drums or cymbals.
  • Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL’s Lamborgini OR we play “quarters” and then hop on the Ouija board for a while. Again, I don’t know Danny Carey, but I’ll do my best. Honestly though, if you go for this package, you should practice your quarter bouncing. It’s like beer pong, except cooler, and you don’t have to wear a trucker hat or pop your collar(s).
  • If you have a band, I’ll join it for a month, or until you kick me out….play shows, record a CD together, have a swim party, etc…. or none of the above. We could also just sit in yer basement and jam old Van Halen.If you don’t have a band I’ll be your personal assistant for a month (4 day work weeks….5:30 pm to around midnight). After this, we’ll take a limo down to Miami, or around Vegas if possible. I’ll figure out some awesome stuff for us to do. I don’t know what it will be exactly, but it will be both dangerous and fun. If you go for this package, I will buy the $50 Josh Freese package, and use my five minute call to get some ideas from him for Tijuana. If he’s not bullshitting and actually has some rockstar-awesome ideas, we still might do the Tijuana thing. If you don’t live in Orlando but are in the USA I will come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks
  • We will go sky diving together. We’ll get the full video package too, which will be posted on youtube. Then, I’ll get some lasagna from a great Italian place (Goodfellas), and we will listen to NIN music, and watch NIN DVDs with my friends. On second thought, one of my friends might actually be able to get me in touch with Robin from NIN’s wife, and I will get her recipe for lasagna. If I think it’s good, I’ll make it. Still, Goodfellas makes some awesome food, so that might be the best option.

As you can see, this is certainly a deal when compared to Mr. Freese’s offer. Order now. tim [at] timrosenblatt.com

Practicing drums, or “1 n 2 n 3 n 4 n”

I’ve been practicing the drums more, and I’m starting to have a few breakthroughs.

I’m noticing that a lot of it is about combining limb movements. I got a practice book that talked about “limb independence”, but I think it was leading me down the wrong path. Maybe at higher levels of drumming, I’ll be focusing more on independence, but since I’m still getting started, I think that “limb combination” is actually more important.

I used to look at music and say “okay, so here’s the pattern for the hi-hat, and then here’s the pattern for the snare, and here’s the pattern for the bass drum”. Then, I’d try and play each of them at the same time. This is a great way to drive yourself crazy.

Instead, I’m focusing on counting — the “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and” beat counting thing. It makes it easier because I know at “1” I have to hit the hi-hat and bass, at the “and” I hit bass only, “2” I hit hi-hat, “and” is nothing, “3” is hi-hat and snare, and so on. So, it’s really like playing a single pattern of combined movements, rather than each limb doing it’s own thing.

After I do this for about 15 minutes or so, just playing and counting a few measures, I start getting that independence developed, but the independence goes away after a while and it’s back to a single pattern of combined movements. Doing the counting really helps keep it on track. I can totally see how this is the basis for a good foundation, however. After a hundred or so hours of this type of practice, I can see how someone could be really solid at picking new stuff up quickly.

One other thing that’s really helping is a piece of software called Guitar Pro. It seems good for learning either guitars, bass, or drums. There are a bunch of sites with tabs to learn from, so it’s a great way to make practice much easier. You not only get what the notes are, but also the rhythm. (Edit: runs on Windows or OSX, thanks Jason)

Also, in searching for info on this, I came across this paper, “A Perceptually Driven Dynamical Model of Rhythmic Limb Movement and Bimanual Coordination“. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds fancy.

Thanks Adam Savage

I saw this video of Adam Savage talking at The Last Hope this past year. I recommend it. It’s awesome to see how dedicated he is, and what it takes to produce such great stuff.

Other than getting a preview of (then) new Mythbuster footage and getting  to see a downloaded AVI of The Dark Knight on Adam’s hard drive, I really liked when he showed his projects folder. It was cool seeing that he works on things when he feels like it, and then saves his progress so he can come back later.

I’ve been trying to get more organized lately (what with the Getting Things Done/Agile planning at Cloudspace and all), so it’s something that stuck out for me, that I wanted to share with you.

RubyConf 2008 Keynote by Matsumoto

Thursday AM Keynote by Matz

This is Matz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukihiro_Matsumoto

He’s talking about his love of languages, and why he got into Ruby.

He’s addressing some of the criticisms, that it’s slow, poorly implemented, embedding issues…he says the list of complaints goes on forever.

But, now he’s talking about why is Ruby good. He says people say it’s enjoyable, that Ruby made programming fun again.

He says he got into BASIC in 1980, and is talking about his problems with it. He says that one thing was the lack of being able to define data types. Everything is predefined, and you can’t change much.

He is talking a bit about LISP, and says some good things about it. He then complains about the parentheses in LISP, then puts up a slide that just says “No.”

He says he likes the aristocracy, as long as he is in power. BASIC gives you no power, LISP gives you full power. But, the problem is that at both ends of the spectrum, we lose popularity. It’s all about balance. You don’t want to go off the cliff of power with LISP, but you want to be able to be near the edge of the cliff — where BASIC isn’t.

He’s talking about why people choose Ruby. When he asks how many people choose Ruby because of Rails, about 60-70% of the room raises their hand. Matz points out that Rails is basically just a DSL for turning Ruby into a web language. He also points out that they are not at RailsConf, they are at RubyConf. This gets a laugh.

Again, talking about LISP, he says it’s a good DSL.

“There are under one million professional Ruby developers now, and we’re projecting there will be four million plus by 2013” — Mark Driver, Gartner analyst

Matz says “The future is bright…too bright maybe. Beware commercial success” He says, right now, we have the community and enthusiasm. In the coming years, we’ll have more money and more job titles. With these resources, come better implementations of Ruby. He says some of these are here now, but there will be more to make Ruby faster, more feature rich, and providing more satisfaction to us, the developers. He also says one of the great things will be all the new developers who are coming to Ruby, and he says “Welcome them, nourish them”. He says there are people who learn Ruby as a first language, and they go on to become great programmers. [Tim: I wonder what happens to people who start in Ruby, and then see C++]

He says he loves us all.