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Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Last night I launched my political career. I was chosen (i.e. suckered) to present a petition on behalf of our 'hood for a barrier to be planted between our street and the 4 lane road adjacent to it. I'm sure I made an impression on the Chapel Hill town council, though I suspect the impression was: booooring! I was preceded by three gentlemen calling themselves Elders for Peace, protesting their arrest for protesting the presence of a new military recruiting office. Their sign read: "Keep Your Hands Off Our Grandchildren!" For this they were arrested, probably for trespassing on private property.

My presentation was followed by a group protesting the arrest for a pending deportation order of a woman whose child, about the age of my son (11), is now being cared for by a local couple. Their protest centered on the fact that the woman was arrested while simply applying for a street vendor's permit to sell her art. HERE is her story. Another rendition of her story is HERE. I may have heard about this a while back, but I was not aware of the details. WTF?! If this can happen here, in the liberal bastion of Chapel Hill, our so called freedoms are a joke. Is this what our young people are fighting and dying for?

Now if you don't mind, Mr. Mayor and members of the council, may we have our shrubberies planted please? After that I feel guilty for even asking.

I have also been saddened by recent losses of members of the extended musical family, but this will be a topic of a future post. For now, please visit the MySpace site for Jim Gomez and consider purchasing his music.

What a bummer of a blog huh? I won't leave you like that. Here is a story NPR ran today about exonerated prisoners adjusting to life on the outside. These guys have a true taste of what freedom really is. I hope you feel a little bit of that today.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Home Team!

One of the best things about living in this area (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) is the excellent assortment of college radio stations. I can almost always find decent music during my commute on one of the three main stations: WXYC(UNC), WKNC(NC State), and WXDU (Duke). One bit of trivia: WXYC was the first station in the world to broadcast via streaming audio on the web.

The best part of college radio is that actual human DJs are involved in making musical selections, as opposed to some corporate idea of what will appeal to the target demographic. So even if there is a crappy song playing, at least it is someone's personal choice.

Back when I was a few (cough) years younger, I was a DJ for WMUC-FM(UMd). Hey look! They have an alumni association now! Back then there was always a bit of tension between the FM station (read: the freaks) and the on-campus AM station, which served the aspiring professional radio, television, and film majors and attempted to be "commercial radio". We coexisted reasonably well though.

I remember a few times I actually lugged my guitar into the station and played on-air. I think I still have some of the tapes of those embarrassing shows. Now would be a good time to offer a blanket apology to all who may have been listening during those times, all three of you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Now With 99.3% Less Evil!

One of the other notable online distributors, Magnatune, has the credo: "We are not evil." Here at BitWorks we have improved on this concept. 99.3% less evil! Less evil than what? I'm sorry, I am not at liberty to disclose the evil benchmarks we have devised in our evil BitWorks laboratory. Why 0.7% evil? I keep that evil card in my back pocket, because friends, as you know, you can't have rock and roll without evil.

John Buckman has done some great things at Magnatune. I find his "choose what you want to pay" idea fascinating, and horrifying from an accounting point of view. I can't begin to imagine that nightmare. Tax time is coming up here in the US. Yay.

Another music distrib concept is Weedshare, which uses Windows Media Audio to allow you 3 plays before you buy, and encourages people to distribute the music far and wide by file sharing, hosting, and whatever they want. Steve Turnidge of Weedshare suggested to me that I weedify some Smokin' Granny music (hey Steve!). This is not a bad idea, but unfortunately it doesn't fit the BitWorks rule: "do things as simply as possible". That's the only way it can survive, along with being 0.7% evil. Weedshare also has a version of multilevel marketing, where people who share the music also get a percentage of resulting sales.

There are too many huge music download sites to mention. Most of them have the same tragic flaw: too much crap. I haven't even mentioned the whole "DRM sucks" issue or the other shortcomings of download sites. I could write a book. It would be boring.

Monday, February 19, 2007


This weekend I had the opportunity to have an acupuncture treatment at a student clinic in the mountains of North Carolina. The deal is that you agree to be a guinea pig for a 4th year acupuncture student and you get the benefit of a team consultation of sorts. I must have had about 15 needles, which felt like a lot, but not as many as this guy.

Acupuncturists vary in style and level of practice, as with any field, but because acupuncture deals with the subtle manipulation of energies, there is some part of the art that cannot be taught except through osmosis. On one end of the scale there are "cookbook" acupuncturists, who may still achieve good results, or not, and then there are those more akin to "energy healers", combining the various diagnosis techniques with what could be described as healer's intuition (i.e. the stuff that can't be taught).

Yesterday's treatment was for allergies, helpful.

Web debugging continues...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dog Wonder

This is Harry.
Harry is a Harrier. He watches over the website while I sleep. Harry is sweet, but he's no Grommit. Actually, it's about time for a walk right now. "Walk" is one word Harry knows.

If this were a real blog, I'd say something interesting about music right now. Well? Still here? Nothing to see here now, move along folks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Host Incognito

They will never recognize me in this clever disguise.

Exciting news today: a new BitWorks artist is nearly ready for his first release! He is already inducted into the BitWorks Hall of Superheroes for providing the new browser icon and the center image you see on the BitWorks home page.

In less exciting news, I have learned how to upload photos from my new phone. The world of photography may never be the same.

Monday, February 12, 2007

'Play All' Is Your Friend

One of my favorite things about the new BitWorks web design is the 'Play All' link for each album. It is easy to get a feel for an entire album in 10 or 15 minutes. Come on, click it.. you know you wanna.

Motel You-Must-Be-Kidding, Baltimore

A quick trip up to Md. to visit recovering mom-in-law. Since we weren't spending any time vacationing per-se, we opted for el cheapo motel of the national chain kind. However, we violated the cardinal rule of travel: arrive late at your own risk! We rolled in at 9:30 PM. You know when you hear: "We have only 1 room left. It's on the 3rd floor, but we have an elevator", things may not be going well. "Is it non-smoking?" "No." "But.. we had a reservation." "... Valentine's Day... we're full ... I'm sorry..." OK, we can deal with a smoke flavored room for 1 night I figured.

After a few minutes, we realized the heater wasn't heating, blowing cold air. A plaintive call at 10:30. "Sorry, we're full." "Do you have a space heater?" "I don't know. If I find one I'll call you..." I don't know about you, but I have come to expect heat as a standard amenity in February in Maryland. At least they had the sense not to charge for the room. "Ah yes, the polar bear suite, very exclusive." I found the noisy neighbors next door to be the one redeeming feature of the place. At least somebody enjoyed their stay!

On our way out we stopped for coffee, but due to a missed turn, ended up parking in the back lot of a closed car repair shop. When we saw the sign: "park here at your own risk", we knew this was the space for us!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Music Industry Rearranging Deck Chairs

You may have heard that Steve Jobs wrote this article on how the music industry should rid itself of digital rights management (DRM) systems in favor of open formats such as MP3.

Of course, today the RIAA fired back, saying: "Screw you guys! I'm going home!" OK, they didn't say that, but they did thank Jobs for offering to license Apple's FairPlay DRM (which he did not, though he said he would consider it). In an article in WaPo (that's The Washington Post for you non-geeks), Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media said: "There's a number of ways to negotiate this transition," he said. "You don't have to flip the switch all at once." Well, here at BitWorks we have flipped our switch. In fact, we were "born" without a switch at all. To me, DRM is nothing but a colossal pain in the ass.

The industry is flailing and trying to keep itself afloat, lamely trying to convince us that CDs really should cost much more than they do, as they continue to sue music downloaders. It's starting to sound like a low budget horror movie.

Web notes: you may notice a few changes to the site if you have been paying attention. You DO surf here daily don't you? I fixed the blog feed date, but now it looks like I will have more fun debugging the posts being out of order.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get Your Jazz On

This past weekend I had the opportunity to play some bass, something I rarely do. One of the things I have always wondered is how jazz bassists do the funky note walking they do, sort of atonal, but not. I played around with this a bit. One approach that seems to work pretty well is to take notes in pairs, one note being "in" the scale (whatever scale that may be) and the other note a half-step up, down, or sideways. With each pair of notes you either move into or out of the scale. Where you end up on the downbeat sets the tone (as in feeling, not audio tone). Playing in the scale, especially the tonic or 5th, on the downbeat gives the sense of resolution. Playing in the scale on the upbeat and then moving a half step away on the downbeat is more dissonant, off balance.

Of course, I'm not a jazz bassist, so I'm really just playing around with this, and there are lots of other approaches to this. Any jazz dudes or dudettes out there want to shed some light in the comments?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Fix Is In

I fixed a couple of broken links today. Please let me know if you find anything obviously (or not obviously) broken.

Watching The Artist Formerly and Once Again Known As Prince at the Superbowl. How do they keep from getting electrocuted in the rain? No doubt the halftime show would be more exciting with a little zzzzzzzttt! So what's he going to do with his waterlogged Strat after the show? .. and the purple Prince-looking guitar?

Friday, February 02, 2007

We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1969

One of the amusing "features" of this beta release is that I have not yet fixed the date feature on my blog feed, so all of the posts--if you are reading from the main BitWorks site--are dated 1969.

Well man, let me turn you on to some groovy happenings. Like the BitWorks thing man, all the hip cats are doing it. So sit back in your Lazy-Boy, grab a beer from the icebox, and chill to these cool notes. Just one question: can you tell me the way to the love in?