Everyday mysteries

I feel very fortunate to have found a large house to live in in the downtown area of Hsinchu. The house is old, horrifically ugly, and some important things don’t work (doors, hot water, toilets, the roof) but it affords the luxury of 4 floors in which to pile my junk. It’s relatively cheap too.
One of the unfortunate aspects is the lack of parking. The house is down a narrow alley which only just has room for scooters. The alley would be about the width of a sidewalk in Canada I suppose.
To find a place to park on the street is impossible most days and cost prohibitive. Luckily there is a parking garage a five minute walk away that offers a monthly rate with few people using it other than a small office building across the street. But at times the garage is quit full and I just don’t understand why.
The neighbourhood I live in has a multitude of restaurants, most of which are never terribly busy. I am surrounded by downtown malls as well but these have there own large underground parking facilities. So it’s a complete mystery as to why this garage gets full on some evenings.
In any other country I would accept the fact that people have decided to park in a central location and take a stroll to the restaurants, bars, and shopping centres that form a 10 minute walk of a circle around this parking area. But the simple fact is no one in Taiwan walks anywhere. It’s an impossible assumption. People here with drive around for an hour looking for a place to park so they don’t have to walk five minutes from their car to where ever they want to be.
So last night when I drove home and the parking garage was full, with a line up of cars waiting to enter, I felt like getting out of my car and asking people why they are parking there in some effort to explain this weird phenomenon. I know all the other parking garages had plenty of space so why choose the one farthest away from where people seem to want to be?
These boring and mundane mysteries of life in Taiwan are what keep you on your toes and put aside any chance you might slip into a sense of normalcy here. Life here doesn’t fit any mold.

Pioneers of Electronic Music: The Barrons

Amazing sounds coming from husband-and-wife electronic music pioneering team of Louis and Bebe Barron. The clips from Forbidden Planet on the NPR site are fantastic.
barrons300.jpg“The 1956 sci-fi thriller Forbidden Planet was the first major motion picture to feature an all-electronic film score — a soundtrack that predated synthesizers and samplers. It was like nothing the audience had seen — or heard. The composers were two little-known and little-appreciated pioneers in the field of electronic music, Louis and Bebe Barron.
Married in 1947, the Barrons received a tape recorder as a wedding gift. They used it to record friends and parties, and later opened one of the first private sound studios in America. The 1948 book Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, by MIT mathematician Norbert Wiener, inspired Louis Barron to build electronic circuits, which he manipulated to generate sounds. Bebe’s job was to sort through hours and hours of tape. Together they manipulated the sounds to create an otherworldly auditory experience.”
NPR : The Barrons: Forgotten Pioneers of Electronic Music

Headphone systems

I’ve given up being able to afford a good sounding stereo, especially a system that will sound good in the concrete rooms that we live in, so here in Taiwan headphones seem a good fit. I have at home now a wonderful pair of Beyerdynamic’s which I borrowed from the office and have fallen in love with the detailed sound that comes from listening to music on these slightly higher end “cans”. Seeing as my employer will likely want these back very very soon I have begun my search for a replacement.
headphonesetup.jpgMost of my music listening is either in front of a computer or via an iPod. Unless I am working with raw audio files the sound source is usually not of the highest fidelity, this is not so much of a concern for me, but when you use quality headphones such as mine you begin to notice that the amps in a computer or iPod are totally insufficient. In addition to buying quality headphones, buying a headphone amp becomes a necessity if I want to truly appreciate what the headphones can offer. Headroom explains it well, “Driving a decent pair of headphones with a portable player almost always results in a gutless mush of music. Hitting the “bass boost” switch only emphasizes the murk.
The fact is that headphones are miniature speakers and require a miniature power amplifier to drive them with fidelity. Headphones provide a complex electro-mechanical load; they may be small, but they still need a power amp with excellent stability and low output impedance (a good damping factor) to bring out their potential. Hook your headphones up to a HeadRoom amplifier and you

Traffic I sound selections

I wouldn’t attempt to call this music nor necessarily pleasing to listen to. These sound vignettes as I call them are a part of larger collection that were created for the Installation Traffic 1. Context is key here and these were not meant to be experienced over small computer speakers, in fact some of the frequencies are so low you might not hear anything at all. Better speakers are required.
Feeling 1
Top Voice 1
Short description of the installation: Traffic 1 is a series of sound vignettes played through custom built enclosures. Traffic 1 communcates through sound various emotions felt during the daily commute through Hsinchu’s streets.

Emotional Design: People and Things

“Our studies lead us to suspect that just as we might be able to classify products along three dimensions of attractiveness (visceral), functional and usable (behavioral) and high in prestige (reflective), we can also classify people along these dimensions. Visceral level people will be strongly biased toward appearance, behavioral people towards function, usability, and how much the feel in control during use. And Reflective level people (who would seldom admit to be one), are heavily biased by brand name, by prestige, and by the value a product brings to their self-image – hence the sale of high-priced whiskey, watches,, automobiles, and home furnishings.”

Girls Ambient Room pads

Here are a few tracks from the Girls Ambient room installation that was apart of the Quietplease! exhibition. I think my focus has always been on sound more than music, a by product of my training I suppose. The sounds I hear and love to listen to usually are far more than I can understand. In the installation pads like these would alternate depending on the time of day with matching sound signals sounding as the data they represented became apparent.

We gathered data from the activity of todays online communication tools (msn, yahoo, and email) and translated that to art elegantly projected on the four walls of a room. As well each activity was also registered with audio which was played as a tuned and unobtrusive signal.


I didn’t quite make the deadline for the thesis this past Monday but as painful as it was I did manage a lot of words in a short period of time. Now if only the words made sense. The draft has been handed in and I have been taking a break.
A break is certainly needed and a holiday more so. I truly hope I can spend some time sitting somewhere away from technology where I can get bored and appreciate some sunshine or some basic green. Hsinchu can be like the worst Canadian winter, no sunshine and all grey and bland. In Canada it’s due to the weather, here it’s due to the pollution and the grey cinderblock aesthetic of the local architecture. If it wasn’t for the gaudy neon store signs there might be no colour in the city at all.
Having a couple days to think has been a Godsend. Many changes are afoot. Most if not all the team I used to work with are leaving the company or at least the division. These people were/are like family to me so it’s always sad to see people moving on. Move on we must though as new experiences and challenges are an important part of life. Working there can cause a person to get lethargic, uncreative, and just plain unproductive. This kind of challenge is always scary. If I am not moving forward, growing, changing, and learning then i am not happy. Finding opportunities that allow that to happen can be hard. I seem to have developed a habit where I find work that I have the least amount of experience in. I then spend my time struggling and learning within my new role. It’s exciting and a great challenge to leverage past experience and knowledge towards something seemingly entirely different.
I’m not sure exactly what I will do next. I know I can only go forward and not back. I want to create great product and great experiences. I want all these ideas out of my head and into the world. I want to affect people like I did when I was a musician. I don’t need applause perhaps just the knowledge that I created something that helped someone complete a task easier, made them smile, made them cry, or changed their thinking in some way. I’m not driven by money but by the people I work with. I’m starting to sound like I’m 26 yr old idealist and not the 37 year old slightly jaded veteran I am. That’s a good sign. I can use that enthusiasm.