Back in high school I discovered the music of Virt, a video game musician who back then was using Impulse Tracker to simulate the sound of the NES. Some of my favorites was his “Classical Favorites” tracks, available from his chiptunes page, albeit in tracker formats.

At the time, I was spending a lot of my own free time writing music with Impulse Tracker, so I dabbled a little bit in faking NES music, in my “LOFI” series, with some pleasing results. This was back around 2000 or so. I never quite got back into it, sadly.

Later on, I discovered 8bitpeoples, a musical collective of chiptune artists. I went to their Data Destruction Tour in Boston and got to talk to and admire the music of Bit Shifter, Nullsleep, and Covox. I wrote a little bit about their music in a post for alwaysBETA.

Anyway it’s been a couple years since then, and I’ve been excited to find out that Nullsleep, Bit Shifter, and crew are performing a showcase and debuting a documentary at this year’s SXSW festivals here in Austin. Needless to say, I got pretty stoked.

This revived my long-standing desire to get one of the handful of different Game Boy cartridges that people have made for writing chiptunes. The one I’d wanted for a long time is named Nanoloop, and I’m glad to say that I finally bit the builet and bought an original 1989 model Game Boy and the Nanoloop 1.3 cartridge!

For my first song, I took one of my old LOFI tracks and spent a short amount of time trying to mock it up on the actual Game Boy, to see how close I had come to simulating the real sound.

The results of this experiment are found in LOFI2. Compare with the original LOFI2, and please keep in mind that there are a lot more restrictions with using Nanoloop and a real Game Boy than I had in Impulse Tracker.

After a couple days, I put forth a little bit more effort and wrote my first completely new Game Boy track, Goof Step. For this track, I kept things simple by only writing one pattern for each of the four available channels. I merely turn them on and off at strategic times to create the structure of the track. I’m pretty pleased with the results, and soon enough I will pursue a more ambitious and complete track.



A couple weeks ago I got the new Logic Studio, Apple’s professional-level music writing software.

I upgraded from Logic Express 7, which was almost three years old when I bought it. The polish was definitely lacking, and I got many headaches using it.

Before that I used an even older OEM version of Cubase LE that came with my PreSonus Firebox. The Firebox is an excellent piece of equipment but the old Cubase software is even more atrocious in this day and age. I got some good work done in it but it took a lot of work.

So, long story short, I’ve been training myself with the 73-page Getting Started manual for the last few weeks. After that I might delve into parts of the bundled 1000-page manual for Logic Pro 8 and the 660-page manual for its bundled software instruments and effects!

Today I decided to try my hand at composing something real. I screwed around by layering a Bitcrusher distortion and a stereo Chorus on top of the “Hollow Pad” patch of the included ES E (Ensemble Synth) software instrument.

For drums I took one of the stock loops, Analog Drum Machine 52, and looped it under the stock Compressor with the “Toms Strong Compression” patch and under the SilverVerb reverb unit with the “Room” patch.

Overall, it’s a bit repetitive but it took only about an hour to throw together. Enjoy!

Grant Hutchins – First Logic Song

Recently Austin (the person) and I have been playing Warning Forever, an innovative freeware video game for Windows that had a small wave of interest a few years ago.

Warning Forever is a “Shoot ‘Em Up”, or shmup, which means you basically fly a ship around the screen and shoot at enemies. What makes Warning Forever different is that there are only boss enemies, one at a time.

On top of that, after beating one enemy, the next enemy evolves defenses based on the strategies you use. So if you find it easy to attack the front of the enemy for a quick kill, the next enemy will have a beefed-up front section. Thus you are encouraged to start with strategies that you are not good at in order to build up the enemy’s more useless defenses.

All in all, this game evokes many of the qualities I find important in a game: replayability, challenge, and direct feedback. Perhaps most importantly, the game takes a simple concept and lets it shine without muddying it up with over-designed details.

Give it a shot sometime.

Warhol's Campbell Tomato Soup

I’m a big fan of Campbell’s Soup.

It’s simple, easy to make, and as American as apple pie. And more importantly, there are more varieties than I can even comprehend.

I like to grab a random soup that I’ve never tried before and take the plunge.

About a year ago I tried Pepper Pot Soup, which apparently is a popular soup style in Jamaica that was traditionally thought to have been invented during the American Revolution when Washington’s army was down to just beef tripe and peppercorns.

Sounds disgusting, eh? It wasn’t so bad, but it did take a bit of an open mind.

Right now I’m trying out Golden Mushroom, which is a savory creamy beef stock soup with lots of mushroom pieces. I think I like this one a bit better.

Anyway, the can of soup is a staple of the bachelor life, and offers better nutrition and selection than something like ramen, so it gets my seal of approval.

In two months I will have been in Austin for a year, and so far I’ve had a blast. From Austin City Limits Festival and SxSW Interactive to tons of local events in-between, I have more than satisfied my hunger for local flavor.

Speaking of flavor, I highly recommend several local food products.

maine root

My favorite would have to be Maine Root sarsaparilla soda, which despite its name and its roots in Maine (pun intended), has an Austin branch after one of its founders moved here. Their pungent and powerful ginger brew is also great.

Jeremy & El Milagro

I also suggest El Milagro tortilla chips, made just east of I-35 on Sixth Street. To date they are the only chips that could possibly compare to the fresh chips at Oklahoma City’s Ted’s Café Escondido, which despite a year in Austin is still my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. I will need to conduct further research here in town.

Musicians wait for the Best Wurst too

Whenever I’m downtown breakdancing at a club I often satiate myself with the best street food in Austin, the Best Wurst. I like it with everything: onions, sauerkraut, mustard, and their very own special curry ketchup.

For more reviews check out my Yelp profile

While most of you were watching Super Bowl XLI, I went to my first breakdancing class. I’m signed up to weekly classes at Dance Zone through the UT Texas Union Informal Classes program.

The first class started with a brief discussion of the art and a passionate plea by our instructor to understand the history of what it’s all about, which was refreshing since I worried it might turn out to be some lame hip hop dancing sort of class.

Nope, this is the real deal. My instructor has trained with the original B-Boys such as the ones featured in the classic movie Breakin’.

There are about 10 beginners and 6 or 7 more advanced B-Boys and B-Girls in my class. The pace is pretty fast, which I appreciate.

On day one we started with a few basic moves to help us catch the beat, as classic original funk and breakbeat songs blasted on the hi-fi. The instructor then had us try to walk on our hands across the floor. I could do about 3 or 4 steps the few times I didn’t immediately fall over.

After that we learned perhaps the most fundamental move of all, and the basis of “footwork”, the 6-step. Here’s a pretty good YouTube video to show what I mean.

I am still a bit sore from it, two days later, but that is subsiding now. I can’t wait to get back in there!

So after all that brouhaha I still managed to make it out unscathed, save for a couple hundred dollars in cash.

And one full day of bureaucracy later and I had already acquired my temporary driver license, my registration, my license tag, and my car inspection sticker, not to mention a brand-new 6-month car insurance plan.

And IKEA also failed to tell me that I was missing the midbeam for my bed, or the frame for my desk. I had my brothers stop at the Dallas IKEA to pick them up for me, only to find later that the table/desk top that they sold me was smaller than what I asked for. But I don’t have my receipt; it was in my lost wallet.

IKEA sucks

Austin, the person, has come down to Austin, the city, to visit. He’s looking for a good job down here. Finally he can live in himself. For now he lives on an inflatable mattress in my living room.

Other than that I’ve been working hard, since the next rev of Spiceworks is due out soon. This will be the first release with some of my code in it. I’m pretty excited about the feature I implemented. I think the users will notice it pretty quick. Can’t wait to hear the feedback.

But after my last post, where’s the adventure, you ask? Well today I was typing on my keyboard (as I often do at my job) and what looked to be a small roach ran around from behind my MacBook Pro and jumped on my arm. I also jumped. Looking closer, I saw that it was actually a very tiny gecko!

And if you’re wondering if this Gecko first sounded like Kelsey Grammar, then an RP Brit, then either a Cockney or an Australian (oh, the controversy), then you’d be disappointed. You see, he was much too small to make barely a peep. That didn’t stop him from running up and down the wall and behind my desk, however. And I got another brand of car insurance anyway.

If only I had setae

On Sunday I drove to Houston to shop for furniture at IKEA, since my apartment only has an inflatable mattress right now. The plan was to drive the three hours, look through all the furniture I could, and get as much of what I need as possible.

Now several of my friends have told me about IKEA, so I knew I was headed toward something a bit different.

The drive to Houston was relatively uneventful. I listened to Bob FM, singing along to Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the song that reminds us, and Bill and Ted, that we are just “dust in the wind”.

I arrived and was instantly taken by the amusement-park-like parking lot. There were families all around loading up new furniture for the kids, young couples filling out their new shared homes, and a mish-mash of foreign languages.

I walked inside hungry, so I immediately headed for the Café next to the Exit. The customer experience at IKEA is very well-defined beforehand, so it felt quite unnatural to go straight to the Exit Café. I wanted to get Swedish meatballs, as advertised, but couldn’t find them. I settled for two hot dogs and a Swedish pear soda.

Unfazed, I set on my journey through the store. I brought in my laptop in hopes of finding a free wireless internet connection inside. I take whatever I can these days.

But alas I found none, and realized I would get tired spending five hours lugging my new corporate behemoth 17” Macbook Pro on my back. So I quickly dashed through the preset IKEA path and out the exit, hoping no one would think I was trying to steal the tiny clipboard in my backpack that could have easily been found in the home organization section downstairs.

Have once again ruined the pre-planned shopping experience, I set out to find a couch. A few hours later I was still weighing my options and had to move on for fear of running out of time.

Perpetually clutching my little IKEA note card was my left hand, whose thumb began pulsating with a painful tightness. I dropped my things into my shopping bag and kept on, trying to help my hand relax.

I eventually decided on a nice dark brown table and a matching bed with foam mattress. When I picked up the pieces I found they were out of dark brown bed frames so I snagged a medium brown last minute. I popped into the checkout line and grabbed a last-minute spot purchase five dollar welcome mat. Mission accomplished.

Or rather, mission accepted, because little did I know what was still in store for me upon my fateful return.

I spent half an hour trying to get twine properly tied around the furniture pieces on top of my car. My Boy Scout skills only got me so far and I asked for help, after most of the families and more frantic customers had been helped. The IKEA employee started to really wrap it up well as he noticed I had tied my car doors shut.

“You going to climb in through the window?” he half-jokingly suggested, and I made sure it was possible and said, “Sure, why not?” He proceeded to secure my goods firmly atop my Chevrolet Impala, and I stuffed myself into my car.

As I often do, I checked for all of my belongings before I left. That’s when I realized I couldn’t find my wallet. Now, I had just used it to buy the very furniture that was blocking me from fully searching the interior of my car. I had already found all of the various pocket gizmos that I had haphazardly dumped onto my car floorboard. But still no wallet.

Unfazed, I went back into the store and asked if anyone had found it. Alas, no one had. They promised to give me a call if it shows up, and try to arrange to ship it to Austin when and if it does.

So, without any way to pay for things, I set off back to Austin. Right then I realized I didn’t have enough gas to go the whole way. Surely it will show up. Alternatively, I can wing something, I decided, and I was on my way.

About an hour later, as I listened to two nerds on a radio show incessantly discuss computer games and the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC, a large bright streak shot through the sky in front of me. In a second, the light appeared, shot down at about a 30-degree angle with the ground, and exploded into many small bright bits, fading into nothingness.

I halfway braced for an explosion, unsure if I had seen a meteor or a missile. Either way, if anything was left at impact it could have made quite a large blast. But instead, I only found silence. I immediately called my parents, who confirmed I had witnessed one of the Perseids. Here I was during the prime time of the meteor shower, driving late at night along desolate Texas countryside. The timing was just too perfect.

Now that I was alert, I kept on trucking. I spent a great deal of time trying to find a good station to listen to Matt Drudge’s radio show. I constantly had to switch between five stations that I could barely pick up, all of which carried Drudge’s droning voice and characteristic long silences.

As I neared the small town of Elgin, my fuel light came on. I needed to get some gas if I was going to make it the final 50 miles. I realized I had a stash of coins for use on toll roads, so I looked for a 24-hour gas station. Instead all I found were closed, dark convenience stores and their well-lit but credit-card-only gas pumps. No good without my wallet, which as yet hadn’t showed up.

I pulled into an empty H.E.B. supermarket parking lot and sized up my situation. A nice man wearing a U.S. Postal Service shirt pulled in to fill up his car, and I reluctantly asked him to help me.

“Could you give me five dollars of gas?” I asked, explaining my situation. I played to his sympathies by adding that I was newly out of college and couldn’t even get in the doors of my car.

I explained to him very nicely that if he put his credit card in the pump, he could pump about five dollars in himself, and I would be willing to pay him in change or mail him a check. He wasn’t biting, and rightfully so, considering the absurdity and my lack of ability to faithfully prove my car wasn’t stolen.

He found this situation puzzling and tried his best to help. However, the best advice he could come up in his confusion was for me to take the pieces off of the top of my car and load them inside, which I think would be impossible and also not helpful.

He pointed me down the road to the still-open Chevron station. It was now about a half hour past midnight.

I waited until no one was looking, pulled up to the Chevron gas pump, then climbed out my window. Inside, I told the lady working there my entire situation and then handed her two Susan B. Anthony dollars, five quarters, five nickels, and four dimes, for a grand total of $3.90.

Back outside (it was prepay) I filled up my car, as the worker lady stepped out for a smoke. I was pumping gas and this lady is smoking? Luckily my just over a gallon of gas did not take long and I got out of there. I predicted to myself that the fuel light would come on again as I pulled into my apartment complex.

I got into Austin, ever eyeing my gas meter as it dwindled but held on. I was making good distance, and would make it!

I got onto US Highway 183, and took the access road under Interstate 35. The construction was everywhere, and the plethora of completed and incomplete highway ramps made for an interesting scene. A few police cars had their lights on to signal the construction, as I had seen a few days earlier in the same spot after a wrong turn.

But the Police were otherwise busy, I discovered. As the light finally turned green and I drove past, I watched as an officer guided a handcuffed man into the back seat of his cruiser. The timing of my drive by framed the shot just as any television drama might have.

Still trapped in my car, hoping the doors were securely shut, and still unable to shut the windows enough to mute the loud highway noise, I pressed on. Finally I pulled into my apartment complex and watched as, surely enough, my fuel light turned on.

I unloaded my car, refreshed that I could finally use its doors. But still, I found no wallet.

I left my small cart that I used for the heavy pieces out on the apartment drive. As I was composing myself inside I heard a rattling outside and realized that someone was taking it. I ran outside, only to find my cart sitting in the hallway outside my neighbor’s door. No one was to be found.

So I quickly nabbed the cart and brought it inside. I heard some people run down the stairs outside and decided to pop back out to explain the case of the mysterious disappearing cart, but once again they were nowhere to be found.

So I went inside to cancel my credit cards.

Luckily I had already lost my debit card last Thursday by leaving it in the drive-up ATM, so its replacement is on the way. Until then I will probably have to rely on writing checks and hoping people will take my expired passport as valid ID.

I still need to get my Texas driver license, car title, inspection, and license plate. For new residents, there is a specific process one must follow, as everything depends on something else.

But without my Oklahoma driver license, I probably cannot get my car inspected, and an un-inspected car cannot get its title paid, and an untitled car cannot be used to get a new Texas license, even ignoring the fact that my lack of my Oklahoma license will probably force me to take another driving test anyway. And last but not least, I won’t be able to get a Texas license plate to replace my Oklahoma plate, which expired at the beginning of the month.

And on top of all this I’m switching over my auto insurance, which is why I waited to get my inspection in the first place.

I better not get pulled over, because I won’t have identification, a valid license plate, a license, or even an inspection sticker. Cross your fingers for me.

But that’s not really even a concern because I only have checks as a method of spending money, and I doubt I can get to a gas station that wouldn’t ask to see ID using only the sixteenth of a tank I have left. Needless to say, I hope my new ATM card comes in the mail by tomorrow morning. Not that I would know where to go anyway because I still have no internet access.

But at least I still have my health!

As long as you ignore the carpal tunnel attack.

P.S. This post may sound negative but really I am enjoying the absurdity of it all. I’m doing fine and should be able to get through all of this with only the required amount of elbow grease.