Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, May 08, 2008

From Golden to Shakin'

I hesitate to give Olivia another reason to hunt me down and slap me, but...

Last weekend plus the Monday and Tuesday that followed were the so-called Golden Week holidays here in the Land of the Rising Sun. Actually, many people would argue that it started earlier, since the first holiday in the chain, Showa Day, was the Tuesday of the week before. That led a lot of people to take Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off from work, giving them a full eight days to play with. I didn't have it so lucky. Ye Olde Academy had its annual Sports Festival on Showa Day, with a substitute holday the next day. That was fine except that my wife and kids weren't free then, and I had enough to do at home. Thursday and Friday were normal work/school days for all of us. Then followed Constitution Day on Saturday, Green Day (the holiday, not the band!) on Sunday, Children's Day on Monday, and an extra government-assigned holiday to make up for Green Day (since it was wasted on Sunday) on Tuesday. That gave my family four full days to play with. Guess what we did?

Nothing.

Well, virtually nothing anyway.

You see, my son and I were mostly free, but my daughter had a huge pile of Golden Week homework, and my wife had had a whole schlock (as opposed to half a schlock) of work dumped in her lap in the last minute. Neither of them could pry themselves away. To complicate matters further, mom-in-law is still in the hospital, and dad-in-law has been alternating between going to visit her and generally doing his damnedest to interfere in our business as much as possible. And unfortunately, any suggestion that my son and I, or even I myself, go off and do something on our own other than visit MIL in the hospital would elicit a flurry of whining punctuated with a few threats. Needless to say, we stayed high and dry through most of Golden Week...which was amazing considering it rained at least half the time.

In the end the only outing we got, not counting the visits to MIL, was a rather brief shopping outing to Narita on Sunday, mainly so my wife could get a new outfit for a friend's wedding. It wasn't a whole lot of fun for the rest of us, however. I picked up some potentially cool DVDs of American TV programs I'd never seen, but the kids whined they were bored the whole time. The fact that my son's Nintendo DS had broken, forcing him to use his own imagination and entertain himself for a change, made his mood even worse. It was black cloud city inside my BLUE RAV4 when we finally headed for home. I tried to cheer everyone up with a (forced) ice cream stop on the way home, but the ice cream place had a line half a kilometer long. The cafe we went to instead for drinks and cake wound up reeking of extra-potent cigarette smoke from a nearby table, giving all of us headaches, and my slightly larger than HO-scale cake was gone in three bites. (Considering it was a reputable cafe that I'd chosen because my wife had always recommended it, well...let's just say we were more thankful than usual to be back home.)

I did manage to spend a lot of time writing during Golden Week, which is always good. I don't know if any of that writing will be put to any use, but it's still something I enjoy doing. Also, as I mentioned in a recent comment thread, I finally got my new, computer-based studio setup working. I'm still hacking my way through its learning curve jungle, and it has been frustrating. After carefully stowing away my venerable (as in ten years old) 8-track MD recorder and associated gear and replacing it with the new laptop and Sonic Cell, I connected it up, plugged in my Telecaster, opened Sonar 7, created a project, added an audio track, set all the proper inputs and outputs, pressed the "record arm" button, and...nothing. No sound. It took a while to figure out that the Sonic Cell and Sonar were set at different bit resolutions. Fixing that, I was able to record, but no playback. After all kinds of mucking around, screaming, yanking hair, etc., I figured out that there was a conflict in the Sonic Cell's routing. Once I got that down I was able to record and play back an initial rhythm guitar track. Then, using the Sonic Cell as a MIDI synth, I successfully laid down a MIDI drum track which worked just fine...till I tried to convert it to an audio track. I was able to do it using the Sonic Cell both as the MIDI synth and as its own audio interface, but I got so much lag that the resulting audio track was playing at a slower tempo than everything else. I'm sure I could probably fix the problem, but I wound up giving up and using Sonar 7's built-in "Session Drummer" drum synth, which worked just fine (and sounded every bit as good). I really want to get busy and do some more recording, especially to experiment more with the new level of flexibility and wider opportunities at my fingertips. However, since I still haven't gotten the procedure down pat yet, I have to overcome a certain level of intimidation-based reluctance even to switch the machinery on.

Yes, Golden Week wasn't exactly golden. It was more of a faded bronze. As if to add insult to injury, when I finally managed to find a stopping place in my activities Wednesday night at around 1:00 a.m. and bedded down for the night, less than five minutes later the house was rocked by a small earthquake. We get those all the time, but this one was a bit stronger than usual and lasted a long time. That got my attention. Then it was followed by a tiny aftershock, and then another, and then another. That was odd. Worried, I ran downstairs and clicked on the TV news for the report. It turned out that it was centered just off the coast of Ibaraki, but it wasn't particularly serious. Relieved, I went back upstairs and bedded down, but then the little tremors started up again...over and over and over. I ordered the Pacific plate to knock it off, but it didn't listen. (It never does, the insolent sod!) Instead, there was another larger quake at about 1:30 followed by another burst of tiny aftershocks. By now I was feeling jittery (heh), so I tried my best to calm down. I had just succeeded in drifting off to sleep when, at around 1:45, the big one hit. I was jarred to full wakefulness partly by the shaking but mostly by the items crashing down from shelves and bookcases. "Fuggit!" I cried, and I went back downstairs.

Apparently the quake activity ended with that last jolt. That was good, because it was still centered right off our coast. Mito, the prefectural capital, was hit the hardest, but luckily there weren't any injuries or serious damage. It was still odd to have a burst of quake activity suddenly break out like that, especially in this area. Maybe I or Pandabonium needs to go to Kashima Shrine and make sure the kanameishi (the huge keystone, only slightly visible above ground, believed to restrain the earthquake-causing giant catfish spirit under the shrine) is still okay.



Kanameishi. Image compliments of Pandabonium's Pacific Islander blog.

10 Comments:

  • I heard about the quake in the news, and thought you might feel it. Good to hear you are ok.

    I just ordered a new sound card for my machine. Mostly because the old one is starting to act up, but also I had some free spending money I wanted to do something worthwhile with. I expect that all my old tunes will be completely incompatible with any new software it will come with. However, it will be nice to fire up the system for music as I have not been able to do it for some time. Doubt I will record anything serious.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 7:46 AM  

  • Japan is so famous for the earthquakes.... I don't like earthquakes, it makes me dizzy and also scare.

    By Blogger Selba, at 3:36 PM  

  • I wondered how you guys faired. Was your HAL 9000 toilet affected? I've been through a number of quakes, here of course, and bigger ones in California, but this one was pretty weird the way it just kept going.

    Looking at the picture of the Kanameishi, I wonder if what it needed is for people to offer larger denomination coins instead of all those 1 yen ones. If "it's not nice to fool Mother Nature", it's surely not nice to be chincy with the gods.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:40 PM  

  • Good to know you and family are okay. I'm grateful Malaysia is sort of protected by the Indonesian islands and Philippines on the other side.

    So Golden Week was more faded bronze, eh? lol

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:31 PM  

  • Faded Bronze? How about Verdigris? loverly. We've been having fun with quakes here on the Oregon coast too. Nothing big, nothing even noticeable unless you have a lot of windchimes, but it's making some people nervous because they are happening along a NEW (or recently renewed) fault line. It's only a few miles offshore from Yachats. Perfect for creating a nice Tsunami.

    By Blogger Phillipa Scratch, at 12:49 AM  

  • Dave
    If your old tunes are in normal midi format they should be compatible with just about everything. I can play my old midi files on every single one of my music-making applications...and they sound even better with the new sound fonts and softsynths!

    Selba
    I freaked out when I experienced my first earthquake here...only a couple weeks after first arriving. Now they only freak me out if they start making things move.

    Pandabonium
    R2-Dtoilet is just fine. I think I found the cuase of its freakish behavior earlier: a dead potato bug (aka sowbug or pillbug) caught in the weight sensor that triggers the cleaning and flushing processes.

    I think you may be right about the denominations. 5-yen coins are what are supposed to be offered because they are considered good luck. Oh, well. Short-change the wrong spirit...

    Incidentally, it turns out five people were injured as a direct result of that quakes. None of them were seriously hurt, though.

    Happysurfer
    Good thing, too. Indonesia has been getting battered recently.

    Faded bronze or rusted iron-nickel.

    Phillipa
    A new or renewed fault off Yachats? That's basically what happened here, a new or renewed fault line turning active just off our coast.

    That's spooky. El Pacifico is up to something.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:14 PM  

  • No no, I wouldn't slap you because by this post you have proved that it IS possible for you to stay at home and do nothing on a holiday, not even running to Ye Olde Academy for rehearsals.

    I'm sitting here trying to amplify the shockwaves from two tiny earthquakes I've felt here into the multiples you experienced there. I cannot imagine...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 9:41 AM  

  • It appears you have turned into an electrical engineer after all.

    Glad the quake didn't damage much. Hopefully our offshore Yachats quakes are just some minor settling.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:49 AM  

  • Spending a Golden Week with family members at home wasn’t high and dry at all. You don’t have to suffer from those crowded areas at least. Thousands of enjoyable things to do: eat some cheese, watch yr. fancy DVDs, play some family games with your kids and S.O....etc.

    I ate popcorns in my golden week holiday. [yummy.]

    By Anonymous Popcorn Queen, at 5:18 PM  

  • i'm sure you've loved changing the studio. hashim is always thrilled when he makes changes. you made some major upgrades tho, so congrats to that. hashim just switched to Logic studio and really likes it.

    thankfully i've never been anywhere when an earthquake hit. well, once i was in california and at knotts berry's farm when they closed a bunch of rides because of one. we didn't even feel it. my mom hates them. the mere thought scares me! i grew up w/ tornadoes and hate these types of things. i'm glad you guys are ok. every time i hear about a quake in japan, i wonder about you guys.

    i wonder what children would have done years ago when we were children! the thought of it... no computer games.... well, actually they came about when i was a teenager, but still... nothing like today. i hope your son is happier now :)

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 10:32 PM  

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