20 October 2007
I got promoted to lead tester about two months ago. Pretty cool. High season was kinda busy for everyone (as usual) so my training was postponed a bit, but now that's done too. I haven't actually done much lead testery stuff yet, but I'm sure I will soon.
I also went back to Sweden for two weeks to clean out my apartment. I renewed my contract here for one more year. I had been subletting my apartment in Sweden, but now that I decided to stay here longer, I had to go back and get rid of it. The whole subletting stuff was a mess. Never sublet your apartment to a company. The amount of paperwork they insist on for every single thing is just ridiculous, and if it's a slightly unorganized company, the mess they can create with the paperwork is way, way, way beyond ridiculous. It's amazing how much you can screw things up if two people are in charge of something and they don't talk to eachother.
My parents drove down to Malmö to pick stuff up and help me clean out the place. We gave away most of the furniture to the salvation army store, and packed the rest into a trailer that they drove back home. It was really nice to see them. This was the first time I had been back to Sweden since I came here in June -06.
I've started taking guitar lessons again. I found out that a guy at work was actually a jazz guitar teacher. Feels great to be taking lessons again. I haven't really done that much with music since I graduated from college just before coming to Canada, other than written a bunch of songs. But compared to the more or less total immersion in music that I was used to back home, just writing songs every now and then is nowhere near enough to actually stay in practice. I've barely played the flute at all since I came here, and I haven't even looked at music theory. Now that I've started taking lessons again, I've really noticed just how out of practice I am.
In a way it's kind of depressing, I kind of feel like I'm wasting my talent and education by not playing more. I spent 16 years studying classical music, so not using it kind of makes everything I learned in those 16 years slowly fade away. On the other hand, it's gotten me thinking about it. Taking lessons again is kind of getting me back into the feel with music. Jazz guitar is very much about modes, scales and theory, learning about voicings and chord colorations. It's made me realize just how much I miss working with music.
I stopped playing just before I came here for a good reason, though. I was so fed up with the whole thing. Not because I was sick of the music itself, but because I was exhausted and fed up with the attitude towards music that we were force-fed with in college. There was always so much pressure on constantly achieving enormous loads of things, that I started to feel like I was made to achieve things for someone else's sake, instead of for the sake of improving my own musicianship. I do realize that when you're working as a musician, you're very often working for someone else, playing music that someone else wrote, etc. But it shouldn't be to the point where you start losing track of why you got into music in the first place. And at the same time, you're constantly being bashed with the idea that to play music well, you have to copy someone else who plays it well. If you're always made to hear something a certain way, eventually you start believing it. And I just refused to believe the idea that working with a creative art, it's more about copying others than actually creating something. I really needed to take a break from music, to digest everything and to get music and my own attitude towards music into perspective. And I think I've done that now. I feel like I'm ready to get back into it, and start making music again for the same reason that I got into music in the first place. Because I love it.
I've decided to take up practicing seriously again, and once I get my permanent residency, I'm going to start looking for music jobs. Working as a game tester is fun and all, but it's really not a job I see myself doing for the rest of my life. It's just not creative and challenging enough.
I'm a musician, and I'm going to create my own art.
26 July 2007
I got plane tickets now, at least. I'm landing in Copenhagen on august 12th, and flying back here on the 26th. This will be the first time I go home since I came here over a year ago. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and all my friends, but I'm not looking forward to trying to get everything done that I need to get done while I'm in Sweden. It's going to be a busy two weeks...
I've been working some overtime for the past two weeks. Nothing excessive yet, but I'm still getting pretty tired. The projects I've been working on lately haven't exactly been all that interesting, so I haven't really been a big fan of work lately. I've been yanked around from one project to another so much, sometimes up to four different projects a day, that I can't help but feel that there is no way the result of my work can be anything other than half-assed.
It has also been getting to me that some people seem to have this predefined image of me being some kind of anti-social recluse just because I usually don't talk much. I have no problems whatsoever communicating if there is something I need to communicate. I've done craploads of public speaking in various contexts, I've been in musicals and theatrical productions both as singer, actor and director, and done more concerts as a musician than I even remember. Believe me when I say that speaking up doesn't bother me in the least. I just don't talk much. Firstly because I'm at work to work. If I have something to do, I focus on what I'm doing. I get payed to insure that the quality of the software I'm testing is up to par, not to sit around and bullshit. Secondly, I see no need to talk if there is nothing I need to say or add to a conversation. I participate in conversations just as much as the next guy, but I do so by listening and reflecting on what's being said, not by opening my mouth.
I've been having this weird hay-feverish feeling for the past week or so, which is weird, since I've never had that past May before. Nikki told me that Ragweed is pollinating like mad right now. Hm... Have I aquired a new allergy? That would suck.
Bleeeeeh... I'm tired and cranky. I really should sleep more.
23 July 2007
Recording is going well, but slowly. Since I play all instruments myself and only record one track at the time, recording one song usually takes me at least one full day. There's always the initial playing around with the tune to find the right arrangement, then a bunch of takes for each track to get things right... And I'm far from a great bass player, so it usually takes a while before I even get through the part without messing it up.
I went to the Tam-Tams in Montreal today. It was the perfect day for it, nice and sunny. I met some interesting people who did some cool poi spinning, and poied a whole lot myself. Fun times!
05 July 2007
30 June 2007
I got myself a myspace page too at www.myspace.com/sammrayne. So far I only have one song on there, but as soon as I get my bass and get some serious recording done, I'll put up a few more songs.
The bass. Yeah. I ordered the stuff from Axe music, and let me tell you: Fast they ain't.
I ordered the stuff on May 26th and paid with my Visa card. Then on May 30th I got an email saying that it didn't work, because my Visa card isn't Canadian. So I went to the bank and paid with a direct transfer instead two days later, and called them the next day to let them know I had paid. Then I didn't hear anything from them until June 12th, when I got an email saying that one of the items I ordered was out of stock, but that because of a malfunction in their inventory system, it showed up as in stock when I ordered it. They offered to ship the other stuff ASAP and ship the out of stock item later for no extra charge. I took them up on that and wrote back the same day to let them know. They wrote me back right away and told me that the stuff would be shipped tomorrow. Some time went by, and I found it strange that I hadn't heard anything more, because according to their website, I was supposed to get a Purolator shipment tracking number when the shipment left the store. I finally got an email with the tracking number on June 27th. Tomorrow my ass... So now I'm just waiting for the shipment to get here. Hopefully it will arrive next week.
26 June 2007
It makes a lot of sense. Now, I wouldn't personally recommend suicide to anyone, it is far too often a very permanent solution to a temporary problem. But psychologically, there is still a lot of logic to that statement. The thought of suicide crosses the mind of most people at some point or another. I'm sure most of you have thought about jumping off while walking over a high bridge, or steering into the headlights of oncoming traffic. It is not necessarily any kind of conscious effort or rational thought, it's more of a "what if...", and most people never have any intention whatsoever to actually act on the impulse. A lot of people would never admit to having thoughts like this. In their minds suicidal equals nuts, only crazy people think about suicide, and they don't want to seem crazy. That is of course complete bullshit. Thinking about suicide and being suicidal are far from the same thing, and you don't have to have any kind of mental problems to think about suicide. Everyone thinks about life and death and one's own mortality at some point in life. Nobody lives forever.
So why is suicide comforting to a suffering person?
The most obvious comment to this is that by committing suicide, the suffering ends. You're free of it, and can go to heaven, or straight to hell if you're catholic, or wherever it is you believe you will end up when you die.
The second and not quite as obvious comment is that it is the option of suicide that is comforting, not the actual act of killing yourself. From a certain point of view, the greatest level of suffering comes not from suffering itself, but from the fact that you have no choice but to suffer. People like being in control of things, especially themselves. A person who has lost everything, his home, relatives, dignity, self esteem, etc. can still hold on to the fact that it is up to him what happens next. His life is his own, he still has free will and the choice to either lie down and give up or to keep going and rebuild his life. He is the master of his destiny. Now imagine this choice being taken from his as well. Reduced to nothing but a puppet at the hands of an external force, this alone is a pretty gruesome form of torture to many people. Of course, there are many people who might argue that one is never really in control of one's own life, and that free will is only an illusion, but that is a different discussion.
The idea of suicide can be comforting, not only as a means to stop the suffering, but as proof to yourself that you are still in control of your life. It is up to me how my life ends and when. And in the extension: If I am suffering, it is because I choose to suffer instead of killing myself, not because I have no choice. I might not commit suicide, but I have the option. The choice is mine, I am in control.
That said, don't go committing suicide. There are so many better things to do to yourself. Go to a spa, or read a good book over a tasty cup of coffee instead.
I ordered an electric bass a few weeks ago, I'm still waiting for it to arrive. Who would have thought that it takes over two weeks for something to get from Edmonton to here? Anyway, it's a titanium white ESP B-50, and I'm looking forward to getting started with it. I have a bunch of songs I'm itching to record. I have a pretty clear idea what I want to do with them, I just need the bass to be able to record all tracks and get a full band sound. Up until now, I've recorded a few songs that are for voice and guitar only, I'll put them up online once I get a few more songs done.
In other news, I might have a couple of upcoming shows in the Montreal area, starting in September. Nothing is booked for sure yet, but we're working on making a few shows happen with myself playing some of my material, Nikki Brown doing spoken word, and Cozmos Quazar playing some of his stuff.
24 April 2007
So yeah. We need a new car as fast as we can possibly find one. This one is not much more than a deathtrap on wheels.
19 April 2007
We went to Walmart yesterday and picked up some stuff, I bought myself a hair trimmer. Looks pretty cool, all kinds of comb attachments, hair clips, scissors and stuff, all for the humble price of 20 dollars. Not bad, if it works like it's supposed to. I haven't tried it yet.
We also have a new housemate. His name is Premise T. Cat, and he's almost five years old. He's white with black specks and acts more like a dog than a cat. We brought him here yesterday from he cat-sitter who's been taking care of him for the past two months. We were expecting him to be kinda weirded out about being in a new place, but he seemed pretty at home right away. He explored the place, had some food, then flopped over on his side on the middle of the floor to watch TV.
30 March 2007
Another site had a clause in the agreement about the "free" bonus they offered. What it said was that the several hundred dollars of bonus money was divided into several parts. The first part meant that they would match whatever money I deposited into their game. If I deposit 40 bucks, they give me 40 bucks, so that I have 80 dollars to play for. The second part was basically the same deal but with them putting less money into it, about 7 dollars for every 10. BUT the condition for the second part to be applicable was that I first make the first deposit, then wager and lose a minimum of 7 times the deposited amount. After that I get to make the second deposit, but I have to wager that 30 times before I can make any withdrawals. And only certain games count towards those 30 times. Baccarat, for example, does not.
So... let me get this straight. If I deposit 5 dollars, I can play for 10 dollars. Then I have to lose 70 dollars, plus the 5 dollars, plus anything I've won with those 10 dollars. Then I can deposit another 5 dollars, lose about 255 dollars, plus the 3,5 dollar bonus the second time, plus anything I've won. After this, I can make a withdrawal.
Does this make any sense to anyone other than the site owner? If I want to actually win any money at all, I must first basically deposit 10 dollars, then give this dude an absolute minimum of 333,5 dollars, and then when I've payed that total of 343,5 dollars, I can finally deposit some more money and keep whatever I win. Sure! That sounds like an awesome deal! Jesus fuckin' christ on the cross, it's a miracle these sites actually have any customers at all. Their only hope is literally that either nobody reads these agreements or that nobody understands them. Not a single sane person would ever pay money into these sites, unless they were 124,7 % confident that they could win all that money back and more on casino software, programmed by the people they're playing against, on games where the odds are all without exception in the dealer's favor...
Oh yeah. Gimme more of that stuff...
22 March 2007
The reason Nikki didn't pay the ticket was that a: she doesn't even remember ever getting a parking ticket, and b: even if she did, she doesn't have any money to pay it with. None. She started a new job about two months ago as an insurance broker, but it takes a while before the revenue starts adding up, and hers hadn't yet. In order to be able to do that job, she has to have a car. In order to pay the fines to get the car back, she has to get to work and make money. But she can't go to work, because she doesn't have a car or a license. I mean... gah! This is the dumbest situation I have heard of. She's basically losing her job because of this. She can't make money without the car, and she can't have the car without money. It's moronic!
And without any way of making money, she has no way of being able to pay rent for this nice apartment in Laval that she already signed the contract for. So she can't get the apartment and has nowhere to live. So now she's going to live here for at least another month. She's been looking around for another job, and gone to a few interviews. This morning this one company called back and offered her a job in St Jerome. It's a customer service job for a company that leases out gym equipment. Not a great job and not a great pay, but with no money at all she'll have to take whatever job she can get. I've been paying for her too for the last months, and frankly, I have no money left. I can't afford to keep doing that, I have my own debts to deal with. I have to start paying back my tuition loan this year. If I don't, they're going to start repossessing my belongings. At this rate, I can't even think about applying for a permanent residency in Canada, I don't have the money for it. This really pisses me off. I'm working a full-time job, but I have zero money to show for it. But Nikki doesn't have any family who can give her money instead of me either, they're as screwed as she is. And I'm sure as hell not going to let her starve.
I applied for a position as lead tester at the company today, I really, really hope I get it. It would mean a little more money, and some more interesting things to do at work than just testing.
06 February 2007
Firstly, the vegetarians didn't particularly like being associated with Hitler in any way, the jewish students were pissed because... well, you know. It's Hitler. This shouldn't need much of an explanation if you paid any attention at all in school. And a whole bunch of other people were pissed off because they thought the whole idea was just ridiculously insensitive and stupid. They do have a point, it was probably not the smartest idea to put up a picture of this particular fellow and compare him to the "opposition" team. It's bound to piss some people off. But if you think about it... Why is that?
Hitler has become one of those 'untouchable' things. In any debate, as soon as one side starts comparing things to Hitler, they're pretty much done for. They might as well hand over their heads on a silver platter. He has become a concept, more than just a psychotic fuckhead who convinced thousands of people to participate in absolutely insane plans. And a concept can't be touched, especially if it's an evil concept. Hitler has in a way become the personification, the very idea of everything that is evil and wrong with mankind. He has become an idea so horrendous that people would never think of using his name as an insult even if they were more pissed off than they've ever been before, because it would just be over the top.
"Shut up, you fuckin' Hitler!"
See? It just doesn't work. People would just walk away in disgust, enemies and friends alike. You just can't call someone a "Hitler" unless that person happens to be guilty of murdering about six million people. But you also can't compare Hitler to anything good either. He's just too evil to be good in any conceivable way. Saying something like "You know, Hitler was a pretty ingenious dude" would probably get you stamped as a neo-nazi and maybe even punched in the face, depending on where you said that. People can no longer see him as a man, because he's become this gargantuan monster that everybody loves to hate. But put that aside for a moment. Hitler really was a pretty smart dude. Absolutely insane and despicable beyond description, of course, but let's admit it: He was pretty good at what he did.
Have you ever looked up any of Hitler's original artwork? They're easily found online. You probably know that he was an art student way before any of the politics started happening. He applied to an art school in Vienna and got rejected. But have a look at the paintings, he was really a pretty decent painter. Lots of landscapes and very detailed paintings of architecture. Not bad at all.
Then things started going badly, he was rejected from art school, his mother died, he spent five years bumming around in Vienna, somehow convinced himself that everything was because of the jews, and things just went to hell from there and people started dying.
Here's an interesting thing. Have you ever thought to yourself: Where did Hitler find so many willing assistants to help him out with his evil plans? Surely the average person doesn't just naturally agree with something like the absolute necessity of killing six million people in order to get the country on the right keel again? The fuckers who worked at the camps, the military, they must have all been insane, right? Maybe the Germans were just a fucked up, evil kind of people back then? No, of course they weren't. This is where things start getting interesting.
Hitler was an incredibly carismatic leader. He was the kind of guy who could convice penguins that fish is bad for you, or sell ice to the inuits for twice the price of gold. When he talked, people just listened, because he was soooo good at talking. That is one part of it.
But what about the people helping him kill all those people? Did they realize what they were doing? Were they insane? That's the other part. They weren't. They did what they were told to do. It sounds like the lamest excuse ever, but this is the really interesting part.
In 1961-62 a social psychologist named Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments at Yale University on the topic of behavioural psychology and obedience. The setup was this:
They recruited test subjects through newspaper ads and mail, and got a random assortment of people between 20 and 50 years old and with different backgrounds and educational levels. These people would be paid $4.50 whether they completed the task or not. They were then told that they would participate in an experiment on the effects of punishment on learning.
The experimenter was played by a stern, impassive biology teacher dressed in a technician's coat, and the "victim" was played by an accountant trained to act for the role, but the test subjects didn't know that these were just actors. The "victim" and the test subject were separated into different rooms where they could communicate but not see each other. In one version of the experiment, the victim made sure to mention to the subject that he had a heart condition.
The test subject was given a 45-volt electric shock from the electro-shock generator as a sample of the shock that the "learner" would supposedly receive during the experiment. The subject was then given a list of word pairs which he was to teach the "victim". The subject began by reading the list of word pairs to the victim. If the victim got it right, the subject would read the next pair of words. If he got it wrong, he received an electric shock. With every wrong answer, the voltage of the shock would go up, gradually increasing up to fatal levels. After a few shocks, the "victim" would start banging the wall, begging for mercy, complaining about his heart condition, etc. and finally go completely silent, as if dead.
At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the victim. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the screams of pain coming from the victim.
If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:
- Please continue.
- The experiment requires that you continue.
- It is absolutely essential that you continue.
- You have no other choice, you must go on.
If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession.Text copied from wikipedia and from the Stanley Milgram website, edited and shortened to fit this blog.
The theory was that only an average of about 1,2 % of people, the sadistic ones, would complete the experiment and actually keep pushing the button until the "victim" was dead. The actual result turned out to be quite shocking. An average of 65 % of all the test subjects delivered the final and fatal 450 volt shock to the "victim". The experiment has since then been repeated several times in different variations and settings, and the result remains constant in all of them. Between 61 and 68 percent of people will kill a person simply because an authority figure in a white lab coat tells them it's necessary. There was no difference between men and women, nationality or other parameters. The average remained around 65 % in all similar experiments conducted.
Pretty freaky, huh? I bet you're thinking: "I could never do such a thing, I would have refused to complete the experiement."
Would you really? Deep down inside, would you really have refused? An average of about 65 % of you would have continued pushing that button. Kinda hard to swallow, isn't it?
It's very, very hard to refuse when an authority figure we have faith in convinces us that it is absolutely necessary that we continue doing what we're doing.
So to tie up this post: No. The Germans were no more retarded fuckers than you and I are. Hitler actually managed to make a whole lot of things better for lots of people in Germany, while making things a lot worse for others. But the ones that were doing better had no reason to doubt that he was a good guy. They didn't know people were dying by the scores at some desolate camp somewhere. They thought things were getting better. So they believed him. They were victims of a very, very convincing and charismatic authority figure who in the end fucked them over so hard not even their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will forget about it.
Let's make sure no authority figure ever fools anyone like that ever again, mmkay?
25 January 2007
Shortly after this, a completely sloshed middle-aged lady wobbled up to us and started talking to us in French. Manda speaks all of five words of French, and mine is so far not much better, so the lady started talking to Nikki. She told us about her family. Turns out she has a couple of kids, a boyfriend and an ex-husband all living together in the same house. Apparently she and the ex-husband are still good friends and they decided to just stay in the same house so he could be close to the kids, while the lady's new boyfriend lives there too. She was quite happy with her life, she just liked going to the cachette to get smashed every once in a while. Huh...
Now, after a while, this lady started doing more than just talking... She started quite bluntly hitting on Nikki. Then she went on to hit on Manda and me as well.
Seriously, this has got to be the weirdest bar I've been to. The lady was quite unmistakingly hitting on all three of us at the same time. Geez...