Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Podcasting Setup

I know some people have been curious about how I record Hymns to the Dead Goddess. I'm still fine-tuning my setup, so there's room for improvement here, and I'm sure my comments will mainly be of interest to audio recording geeks. Nonetheless, here is the setup I use....

I use a CAD u37 USB condenser microphone. It's not the world's best microphone but it's solid and works just fine for my needs. If you noticed the reddish gunk around the power LED--that's nail polish. I was trying to mask the LED a bit so that, if I left it on at night, the light wouldn't keep the whole room needlessly lit. Even with a couple coats of polish, the LED light is so bright that it cuts through the polish. Overkill, mayhaps?

I've used coat-hanger-and-pantyhose windscreens before, and they work fine, but for this setup I wanted something a bit more permanent, with a relatively easy way to replace the screen should it get ruined. You may notice there are already runs in the screen. If I were doing this over again and had an even more limited budget, I probably would have found a small, lightweight crochet hoop and used that instead. But the cost of the windscreen was worth it for the gooseneck and stand clamp, which helps greatly.

I could have used a desktop mic stand, but I like to be able to move my microphone around as needed, so I use an instrument mic stand. Because the base is a bit narrow, I have an A-clamp holding it to my desk for extra stability. It's nice to be able to raise the microphone out of the way when I'm done recording, or adjust the microphone position when I am.

The grey pad behind the microphone is acoustic foam, which helps to reduce room echo. It helps to make my voice sound a little warmer because there's less high-pitch reflections bouncing back. It's designed to be adhesively mounted to a wall, but I don't have a convenient wall for it, and besides I'd like to be able to reposition the foam as needed. So it's free-standing, propped up with--yes, I know--a green plastic folding table. VERY high-tech and professional, I know.... Hey, it works.

I've stuck with iTunes, despite my misgivings with Apple in the past several years, because it provides a Grouping tag that lets me flag which bands have women as members. As you can imagine, that's very helpful for my podcast! I also use iTunes to determine the playlist order using a very simple formula: Start with a strong, aggressive song, slowly transition to any slower or more delicate music, and end with an epic finish if possible. I then pay attention to the last 30 seconds of each song and how it transitions to the initial 30 seconds of the following song, just to make sure there's no jarring segues, and tweak as necessary.

When using my mic I record using Wavosaur, simply because it's lightweight, supports VST, and can adjust pitch without resampling, which can make things sound a bit jerky. (Confession: I adjust the pitch of my voice 50 cents, or half a semi-tone, partially to trim a few seconds off the introduction and partially to boost the treble in my voice slightly. It's a very subtle change, but I like the effect.) I also use the CompEQ-V VST plugin, which helps me adjust the voice's sibilance, levels, and timbre. I only started using this plugin recently, but the end effect is that Ss are less harsh, the volume of my voice is more consistent, and any flatness that comes from using the acoustic foam is reduced. In short, it makes me sound a bit more professional.

Any adjustments to the audio files--songs, spoken word, etc.--are done in Music Editor Free, which I favor over Audacity because of the user interface. I also do any mixing here, as well as compiling all the audio into one large file. A drawback to Music Editor Free is that it seems to apply joint stereo when saving MP3 files, even when you told it *not* to do so. I hope this gets fixed, because while joint stereo is great for compression, it's lousy for fidelity, especially if you're trying to preserve panning from the left channel to the right, or vice-versa. In the meantime, I save the end result as a WAV file, and then use VLC (not shown) to convert the WAV to the final MP3 file that I upload.

Through it all I save everything I do in the highest possible quality WAVs possible, and only at the end compress to 128 kbps MP3 for the sake of bandwidth. This reduces artifacts that might come up in the process. I also use LAME to create the MP3 files, since LAME is optimized for music, whereas the default MP3 format uses the proprietary Fraunhofer algorithm that is great for spoken word but lousy for music.

I hope you audio tech geeks are satisfied. Maybe now I can concentrate on actually, you know, making the podcast.... ;)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Many Boots Do I Own?


Some claim I have a fuckton of boots. This is demonstrably false.

This box can hold 0.25 metric fucktonnes, and yet with nearly all my boots inside, there is still room for my wellies, which I will keep in my closet for now.

Even with conversion factors, that is still less than one of your stinking imperialistic fucktons. So there, neener.

And some dare say I have too many boots...! HA! AS IFÅ 

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Question of Womanhood and Uteri

(TRIGGER WARNING--discussions of transphobia, violence, and sexual assault)

Serious question time: Why do oh so many of you presume that "woman" = "uterus"?

I know, I know, I've brought this up again and again--here on this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, in private conversations. But it is my obligation to keep saying it, for reasons that should be clear, if not already, then by the end of this post.

I have a lot of friends who swear they would never, ever, in a thousand years, blindly accept what they're told by their parents, or their schools, or the TV, or even their friends. But on this matter, they won't admit that they've already done so. They'll simply state, "Because it IS." They'll accept, without reflection, everyone else's word on the gender of a body part.

We wouldn't gender a foot, a lung, or a kidney. It'd be absurd to do so. But when it comes to the so-called "reproductive organs"--which are used for a lot more than reproduction, and in many cases never used for reproduction anyhow--we're eager to make an exception.

Never mind that there are women without uteri. Never mind that there are people with uteri who aren't women.

Ah, but sex and gender are different things, right? Don't we have a loophole here? After all, you may reason, you may have a trans friend who once told you glibly that sex is about your body but gender is about your identity. At one confused point in my life, I might've been that trans friend, trying to be helpful by claiming gender and sex weren't the same thing.

But no. HELL no. 

When I said sex and gender were different, I was terribly wrong. As Asher Bauer once pointed out, the terms we use for sex organs are as much socially constructed as the terms we use for gender. So all you're really doing by insisting that there's a difference between sex and gender is moving the goal posts. And doing so lets you get away with murder--literally.

The cruelty of this artificial dichotomy between sex and gender leads to so-called "trans panic" defenses where a cisgender person says they were deceived by a trans woman who didn't say who she "really" was. It leads to trans women being told that, because they weren't "born women," they won't be allowed into women's homeless shelters--and, since there are few gender-neutral shelters, they will likely have to choose between the risk of being assaulted in a men's shelter or freezing to death on wintry streets. It leads to hospitals refusing to help dangerously ill trans folk of all genders because the doctors and nurses are too fixated on what genders belong to which organs. It leads to assaults on people--not just trans folk--because someone thought someone else was in the "wrong" bathroom. In short, saying sex and gender are different things enables violent transphobia.

Do you get it yet? Nearly all of us--me, likely you, certainly our parents and our schools and the TV and our friends--have enabled transphobia because we couldn't let go of this notion that certain body parts belong to certain genders of people. I'm culpable too. I'm guilty. Hence my obligation--my endless atonement, on behalf of all those impacted by transphobia far worse than what I've endured. Hence, too, my moral outrage: In light of how most of us have allowed this tragedy to continue, we insist on clinging to the concepts that abet the tragedy. 

Worse, in this society, we are prone to excuse the gendering of organs on the grounds of what others do, which is a morally reprehensible excuse in the first place. We, as a society, are quick to ignore the deadly effects of transphobia because we are quick to assign genders to behaviors. 

Witness how rape is discussed; we assume the rapist is a man, the victim is a woman. That's not always true in the first place. But the assumption gets extended to feminist discussions of trans women, where suddenly--despite the horrific rate at which we get raped, too--we are accused of "raping" women's bodies since we are "really" men and thus appropriators of women's experiences. It also gets extended to discussions of trans panic defenses--if we didn't make it abundantly clear enough that we were trans, our sexual partners aren't fully consenting to have sex with us, and thus were raped.

Instead of merely dealing with the typical blame-the-victim shaming that comes after rape, we trans women are also accused of being perpetrators. How's that for a catch-22?

And then--get this!--we're sometimes told that since we obviously "chose" to be trans, we have to accept the transphobic consequences. As if we'd choose this. As if we're somehow oblivious to how this society treats people like us. As if we are somehow morally bound to pay the price for the sacrosanct place society created for gender definitions.

When someone mentions the "War on Women," I want to agree that there is a cultural war on women--trans and cis alike--and that we should stand together, united against this threat to our lives. But then they start talking about specific body parts that I don't have and can't get, and it's clear from the discussion that they won't stand with me. It's also clear that they won't stand with trans men either, who may in fact have the exact same body parts and the exact same resulting health issues.

And here is the tragic irony: If I bring all this up, they want to know why I won't stand with them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



As drawn by my friend and fellow SubGenius, Suds Pshaw.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Slottet i det Fjerne II

I thought I'd share what the castle looks like in daylight, with greenery about. Also, some close-ups of my avatar just for giggles.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New Boots, Red Boots, Hot Boots

I may well have more boots than skirts. Now ask me if I'm bothered by that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Slottet i det Fjerne

(With a tip o' the horns to Darkthrone)

I've been setting up a gothic castle in Second Life, surrounded by lovely snowy peaks. The perfect place to torture prisoners, host metal concerts--whatever strikes my fancy!

Oh, and I'm showing off my latest mesh hair, latex, and boots.... :)