Who's drumming with needles?

Welcome to drummingwithneedles.com. The content here is provided by me; Robert van Loghem, Rhenen, NL. A guy who develops for iPhone/iPad and is interrested in lots-o-biking.

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Entries in life hacking (7)


Do i prefer vinyl records?

No i don't. In fact i don't prefer any medium, be it vinyl, cd, or some downloaded digital thing. When i listen to music on my home stereo the sound quality has to be at least ok. With ok, i mean, no distortion, relatively-uncompressed and does not sound like a 128kb mp3, where I hear a constant ocean when I should be hearing cymbals. I've got a 1200 piece vinyl collection, some 500 CD's, 450 tracks bought online and 1 Album-USB stick ;) by Mr Scruff on Ninja tune. It has to be about the music! but sometimes I catch myself prefering sound quality above any other quality and that is something dangerous.

So preferring a single quality above something else is dangerous to me. But why? I think that there is more to music then one single quality, sound, composition, sharing (how share-able with other people ;), complexity, impressiveness all come mind. (some of those qualities are a bit personal and vague ofcourse!) So I try to not prefer one to the other but judge them on different qualities. Sometimes it can be hard to not fall into the trap of just focussing on sound quality because I've got a pretty good sound system which is like Simon Cowell of XFactor coming down on an unsuspecting and innocent sounding music piece with a bolt of lightning if it does not sound right. When I first got my Speakers aka Maxima's I thought I could throw away 50% of my music collection because it sounded terrible or so-so. Thankfully I had learned that while sound quality is important! it is not the bar to which the rest must be compared with. Take for example, Peter Broderick, sound quality, so-so, but the composition and the arrangements give me goose bumps!

There must be something more to music then sound quality and that is something I have learned in the last 3 years! It is also about other qualities. Beautiful music sounding bad is beautiful music sounding bad ;) But i still enjoy THE beautifull part of it. So do i prefer vinyl records? No i don't, i like the sound and the spinning black disc, but other media has its uses too and that is where the real enjoyment starts. Wherever i am, i can always equally enjoy music be it on my big speakers or doing the dishes while my iPhone is playing some mp3 from LCD Soundsystem. I enjoy them both and equally. In the end it is all in my mind. 


It's not the end result that counts, it's how you get there

That is what Bert Monroy says at the end of every Pixelperfect show that my girlfriend and i watch on Revision3. The show is about how to create digital paintings in Photoshop. Yes, the paintings at the end are indeed wondrous to look at but, just as looking at Bob Ross working, it's the way he creates them that keeps us coming back to enjoy watching the show every week.

When i was a kid, i used to dream how it would be when i was 20-ish. Be a DJ, do cool work in IT, buy any gadget i would like. I realized my dreams. I DJ-ed on some big festivals, traveled abroad, do cool work at one of the best IT companies in the Netherlands and i can almost buy any gadget i can set my eyes on (if my purse allows it ;) ). Was i happy that i fulfilled my dreams? No i wasn't. In fact, as soon as i reached a milestone in my life, e.g. DJ in London, i would immediately set another one. e.g. DJ in Japan. I felt empty, always looking forward into the future, never looking back or living in the present and enjoying the fact that e.g. i played at the Lowlands festival (one of Hollands biggest music festival). I wasn't enjoying my life until i started applying Bert's motto; "It's not the end result that counts, it's how you get there".

I first understood it when i was building my new speakers, Scanspeak Maxima's. These were going to replace my 16 year old Visaton ones. The Maxima is very big and it would take me, together with my dad, a long time to build (6+ months). When i started, i dreamed about how they would sound, spend time with friends, family and my girlfriend putting on some great music! At the time, in my mind i wasn't busy with building them, they were already done. The building-part was just a hurdle that needed to be taken as quick as possible. Again, i wasn't enjoying myself, the enjoying part would come as soon as the speakers would be done. I knew from past experience that as soon as the speakers would be done, i would not enjoy them but just set a new goal and dream about the new thing. How frustrating...

We bought the parts, wood and started building. With my iPhone i took a lot of pictures of the work we did. Whenever we started on a new part, i would take pictures, whenever we finished a piece, i would take pictures. When i wasn't working on the speakers, i would sometimes look at the pictures and it occurred to me that, i was enjoying the progress we made. Wow, i wasn't thinking about the finished product! I felt proud about building the speakers, glueing, sanding, painting, seeing how far we had gotten within 4 months.

For me there is a comparison between looking at the Maxima building pictures and watching an episode of Pixelperfect. I see progress and of course some mistakes ;) It makes me feel great inside. So i started doing that in every aspect of my life, not by using pictures but by being aware. Whenever I'm doing something, I think about where i was, where i am now, where I'm going to, but most importantly, how i got there! Seeing the "...how i got there..." part has changed my life. It's weird but i'm happy, i found it! I'm still doing the same things as i have always done, but the things i do make me feel good inside. Only because I'm aware and proud of the things i do to get somewhere.


Discovering music...

The music sound sourceOn the 17th of april i went to the Utreg United party with a friend. But before we went she let me listen to some nice new electro. Thus i discovered some nice new artist names which I'm going to be spending money on. Downloading it from iTunes, buying it in the shop or looking out for some excellent vinyl.

The thing i love about music is discovering. It's always a great sensation to hear a new track and getting goosebumps, learning/growing to love it, sharing it with friends and family. You can find a diverse range of music in my iTunes and vinyl library ;). From Alan Parsons Project to Kilimanjaro dark jazz ensemble, jazz to breakcore and back again to minimal classic. I'm open to listening to new music and there are a few good ways of finding it. In this post i'll tell about a couple of my favorite ways of discovering new music! 

Ye olde shop.

You know where you go into a store and a man/woman stands behind a desk and sells you music. There are loads of these shops in the city centre of Utrecht and most of them are terrible because they cannot recommend me any music based on my taste. It's the reason why i started buying music online. Nevertheless there are a couple of exceptions; The first; Metro record store, the second; de Jazzwinkel (the jazzstore). (there are more exceptions of course) Why do i keep going to these stores? Well, it's because they are run by music lovers with a great deal of knowledge. Whenever i go to these stores, i want to hear something new! i ask the owners if they can recommend me something. I listen to a couple of records they select, pick the ones i like and leave with a couple of cd's or vinyl records. I'm a lazy person and in my mind there is nothing better then to just say; "Could you recommend me some new music that sounds like a cross between Miles Davis and Toytronic" and they come up with Nils Petter Molvaer. Great!

iTunes store.

You can of course fill in any online store here that you want but the reason i say iTunes store is because i have a couple of Apple products. iPhone and Apple TV. So I'm locked down into the Apple eco-system. The cool thing is i can get recommendations, watch out for new releases, it lets me buy music on a saturday night at 00.10 from the couch. What i usually do to discover new music is type in the name of an artist i already know, like Johan Johansson, go to the album and look at the recommendations. One of those was the album Float by Peter Broderick and oh gosh! wow is it beautiful, minimal classic! Goosebumps!

Friends and Family

This is my all time preferred way and the one i was talking about in the beginning. People showing off their music. It's great, especially with an excellent bottle of wine, cheese and a good sound system. What i like to do is ask someone to let me hear some new music he/she has recently bought or some of their classic stuff which gives them goosebumps. I just make some notes and order the music i liked the next day. I think about 70% of my music collection has been bought this way and i look forward to spending yet again a day/evening with some friend on the couch listening to music.

But of course the thing that makes discovering music with friends and family the best for me, is a people social thing. The music is just a bonus ;)

ps. i want to shout out to DJ Illusive and DJ Westrum in remembrance to the Biltstraat sessions. Every thursday night, listening to great music all night long! ah, always the amazing atmosphere! oh the good ol' days........wanna know more? i'll soon blog about it.


If it's a good idea, you'll remember

I am over enthusiastic, keep thinking of new ideas, trying to combine different concepts into a new one. As i get older i noticed that it's becoming very tiring, having 5 to 10 new cool things pop up in your head a day. How do i remember them? How do i know which one is really important, has the top priority?

2 years ago i had installed my own wiki onto my Macbook Pro. If i had a new idea, i would put it there, in some page, in a list, with or without some extra explanation. The pages, lists started to pile up. Reading them again and again was fun, but it didn't move me to actually execute them. I had more ideas then i could execute.

The next step was to do some prioritization? Move the really, really, really good ones on top and the "what was i thinking" to the basement. Did that work for me? Sort of, but i kept changing the priorities. This week i would work on a site, next week electronic music. The site was never finished. The electronic music was 80% done. Ideas in your head look a lot nicer then a site half done. It was awful, changing priorities too often meant that i would start on something but never finish it.

I gave up on the wiki, prioritizing. Took too much time and was very frustrating. I did nothing. If i had an idea, i would think, well this is good and then didn't do anything with it. What happened next was amazing! Some ideas kept popping up in my head. After 6 months, some ideas were still there. Hey wait! perhaps they're good and important to me. The cool thing about these recurring ideas are that they stand the test of time.

For example, my girlfriend and i are thinking of moving to another small-city, Rhenen. We've had this idea now for at least 3 years. Every 2 or 3 months we visit the city, we talk about it every week. The idea is again! confirmed. It's important to us. Now in 2 months we'll be selling our apartment.

This website is another fine example. I always have fine discussions with family, friends and colleagues about technology, life and music. I have opinions about, explore and experiment with them. These are things which i want to share with anyone. How to do it? A blog of-course! The website-blog idea has been lingering in my mind for at least 9 months. It still holds up and it's still great.

The "If it's a good idea i'll remember" way of living has given me peace of mind.

My rule of thumb
1. When i have an idea in my head, i think nothing of it.
2. When i get the same idea over and over again, i act upon it.

Use iPhoto to rate wine (or any other drink)

This weekend i bought a nice bottle of red wine from a shop in Utrecht, Margaret Wines. The guy from the shop suggested a red Bordeaux made by a Dutch wine-maker living in the Bordeaux region. When i got home i swapped the last empty bottle of red wine with the new full one. When i put the empty bottle in the bag with other empty bottles i thought to myself, the now empty one tasted pretty good, i should remember it. But how can i remember it? If it's good, if it's bad, how much it was? and it also would be cool to have that information with me when I'm at the supermarket shopping for a new bottle.

Wine event in iPhoto

Well the solution for me was very simple. Take a picture of the wine bottle with my iPhone (or any other camera), import the picture into iPhoto, add it to a "Wine event", rate the picture and if needed add some description to it. What i have then is a list of wines, well pictures actually, with ratings (1 star is horrible-do-not-drink-again, 5 is wow!) and a short description of how it tasted, where i bought it and perhaps the price.

Now the only thing left is to have the list easily accessible when I'm shopping for new ones. Hmmmmmmm, well i found a pretty nifty solution , it's the all magical iPhoto->Smart Album->iTunes->iPhone combo! You start off by creating a Smart Album in iPhoto, then setup the conditions as seen in the picture.Open up iTunes, plug in your iPhone (or iPod), go to the pictures tab and click from the Selected albums the "Best wines" album. Now hit the Sync button and you have an album of best wines added to your mobile device (aka iPhone or iPod)! So what just happened? I have a fully automated way of adding pictures of great tasting wines to a picture album on my iPhone. Whenever i add a picture to the "Wine" event in iPhoto and give it a 3-star or more rating it gets synced to my iPhone. Of course this is just a taste of what is possible with rating pictures of bottles of wine and syncing them back with "Smart albums". I'm going to be adding "Smart albums" for "Best Whiskey" and "Worst wines" (so i don't accidentally buy them anymore).

Currently this wine is at the top of my list! (price is a bit steep but hey! the taste is great!)

Chateau D'Aurilhac 2005 Haut Medoc