Sunday 11th April 2021 20.24 Published by

So, I took another six months off from adding anything to this site. However ironically, I’ve been a little busier than usual around here, despite a pandemic and soft quarantines and whatever else gets in the way for most people; for me, everything’s about the same as it was a year ago, or a decade, or slightly over twenty-four years ago when I started this site up in the first place.

Basically, I’m mostly sitting here playing videogames, and occasionally getting paid for stuff I already did.

I coulda written that sentence back in 1997, too. Though the games were smaller and slower, and I suppose I had fewer largely overlooked income streams back then. Also, I updated the site more often; back then, it was what ultimately evolved into social media: chatrooms and messageboards and technically a guestbook; a hitcounter making no distinction between Likes and Dislikes; more animgifs and less fullmotion videos; Princess Di dying instead of Prince Philip; that sort of stuff.

And I’m not just playing videogames this year: I’m also posting things to other sites and whatever. I don’t not exist; I just haven’t really been existing here.

I considered existing here more often, about a year ago. I saw someone around February last year writing up this thing from Italy, where the quarantine had already locked everything down, begging everyone else in the world to start keeping track of daily life—like, for posterity. It kinda sounded like a neat idea; it mostly sounded like selfimpressive pablum. I’m not some indispensable frontline multinational reporter getting the news out to the masses; I’ve never even lost a plane. So, to some extent, I wound up doing the opposite of that: reacting to the nigh global shutdown by writing into this site even less than before.

I suppose part of the problem is that this was never a place for microblogging. And damned near everything I’d have to talk about, regardless whether it’s worth actually writing down anywhere, would fit into a tweet. Or a webcomic. So, at the least, I’ve done another five hundred of those since this whole mess began. But…leaping into the backend of my flagship site to bang out some daily diatribe? Selfimpressive pablum. I just don’t need the attention that badly.

So. Let’s catch up, I guess. See if I can think of anything I’ve actually done in the last seven months or whatever.

Kinda went shopping. Which is actually oddly funny. In the last entry, I mentioned that I’d grabbed a Pixel4A after seeing an advert for it—despite being GenerationX and therefore basically immune to advertising. But I really kinda desperately needed pretty much any new phone, and that one looked okay. Also it looked cheap enough that, if it wasn’t okay, I’d be okay. And, if you’re curious: it’s okay; I’ve had it for six and a half months now, and nothing about it is causing me to think that need another new phone again yet.

Now it’s this year, and I got an advert I damned near ignored because it was trying to advertise something at me:

Relevant to my interests.

So, that happened.

I’m not quite sure how it happened. Apart from being immune to advertising, I’m usually immune to getting targetted adverts. I guess maybe I mentioned pianos at some point somewhere in social media. Or my microphone heard me playing something and told on me. Whatever.

It happened to show up at about the right time. Because, though I’ve got fifteen or twenty keyboards here, ranging from Yamaha to Alesis to Korg to Ensoniq to Casio, and from Pointless Toy [I still have the Casio SK1 I got for a hundred bucks in 1985] to Prosumer Instrument, none of them is quite…good. Anymore. Each has a different purpose, I suppose; but I could argue that the Yamaha DGX505 I’ve had for sixteen years now was probably the most immediately useful.

A shot from 2006, when my office was less messy.

And it’s was because, just lately, the keys have been getting sketchy. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve banged on them unreasonably forcefully every day since 2005, or because, when I’m not banging on them unreasonably forcefully, I’m letting them get dusty because the thing hasn’t got a cover. Or the cats jump on it a lot. Whatever.

I assume I can fix it. I took it apart to see what I was up against, and it all looks pretty obvious; I probably just need to take yet more of it apart and clean off whatever little connectors are in there and getting lazy beneath the dust.

Until or unless I can fix it, I’m kinda lacking in pianos operating the way I might expect. The rest are either less than eighty-eight keys, or they sound wrong.

So now there’s this Casio for $549 [about six, once taxes get yarfed all over it], which I went ahead and grabbed…eventually.

First, being against advertising, I didn’t wanna get it from the people bothering me with an advert. Call it spite. Or even just not knowing anything about them.

Second, I had this clever plan of hitting Guitar Center, despite not much liking them. It’s not personal; it’s just that everyone I know has grown to hate them over the years, for what’s probably some sorta good reason. But I figured that, pandemics notwithstanding, I could probably go in and play with one of these things—just to see what I thought of it.

So, that didn’t work. Because Guitar Center haven’t got any actually in stock, let alone on the floor to play with; you can only get them through their website. Because, apparently, everyone I know is right to hate them.

I could get one through their website. And, since they’ve got whatever Disabled Veteran Discount, and I’ve got Hunter, I could probably dodge the salestax and get back down to about $550.

Except that the process of proving DisabledVeteranhood to these people isn’t worth saving fifty-five bucks. So I ultimately just hit amazon.com.

Customer since 1998, because I made it fifteen years before I bought anything on the internet.

Then I had a few days of downtime while it wasn’t all AmazonPrimal; then it showed up. And then the punchline: it was mailed out from Sweetwater. Whatever that is. Apart from the people advertising the thing in the first place:

Well, played, Anonymous Spammers….

But, whatever: I’ve got that now, all unboxed.

About that: I actually considered unboxing the thing on video, to about the extent that I considered blathering throughout a pandemic. What got in the way mostly is that I wasn’t joking: that image from 2006 up there was about as unmessy as my office has ever been.

Because one thing that this pandemic has kindasorta led to has been Hunter pretty much living with me here in this room. Which is okay, all things being equal. Except that it’s not all that equal: she’s got her laptop in here, mostly as a CPU connected to a normal keyboard and one of my thirty-two-inch screens; then the microphone’s between us and we LAN a few games every once in a while. But the result is that my office, which is a little chaotic when it’s just me, now has an extra chair and every damned thing she just kinda piles onto the floor when she’s done touching it. Also a Yamaha DGX505 kinda leaning against a wall, so I can eventually drop a Casio S350 in its place, once there’s anything resembling enough room to carry it in here.

Which brings us to the Casio, which I didn’t record unboxing. Though I could probably just link to someone else talking about it:

This is about what I thought of it, too.

Just to add to that video [or to give you something of a tl;dr]: it’s not an expensive keyboard, being under a thousand bucks; but it kinda feels like it could be. I assume the keys are as plastic as any Casio has, but they’re textured and coated in a way that makes them feel more real. Not quite ivory—the piano I had as a kid was…illegal is a strong word, but it was certainly irreplaceable. It was made of elephants, is what I’m saying. But, like, earlier. The thing was an antique by the time I first touched it, keys yellowing and cracking slightly. Middle C had a small chip on the front edge, resembling a C; the E above it had two, which looked like an E. I think that actually helped me learn things faster than I might have on more modern an instrument.

Otherwise, it was a basic, irreplaceable, priceless grand piano. Dad had someone come out and tune the thing for several hours at a time, every couple months. Which always annoyed me, since it actually sounded a little better just as it drooped down by a couple of hertz—kinda more imposing and…echoey.

Of course, that piano was something of a…you know…piano. So, if Dad was playing the thing, I could hear it from the other side of the front yard. I assume that, if I was playing it, you could hear it from Madagascar.

Being not an attentionwhore, I’m not thrilled when people can hear me playing anything.

So, the SK1, for example, allowing for headphones [those spongey things that weren’t good, back in 1985], I was kinda happier with that little toy than I was with this nineteenth-century illegality echoing from the parlour to the eastern coast of Africa.

Then there were other and better keyboards, and the DGX505 that was good until it became sketchy in the last few months, and now there’s this Casio.

It’s basically a toy. Meaning that it’s got a dozen different pianos sampled into it, and then harpsichords and violins and drumkits and cars honking and whatever Casio always include in one of these things; Ferris Bueller could use it to call in sick. But, inasmuch as it’s a toy, it’s really close to what I’m used to, even now. The keys are weighted, which isn’t uncommon anymore; but they’re weighted gradually, making the lower ones feel heavier, down where the makebelieve strings would be thicker. The first thing I noticed was that I’m actually a little out of practise on real grand pianos, because the first couple octaves requiring more force was a bit unexpected.

Apparently as a result of playing whatever piano I had at my disposal since I was two years old, I’ve got perfect pitch. So, if anyone’s wondering whether the S350 happens to be about right, being a computer in the shape of a keyboard: it’s fine. Though, freakily enough, I’ve got the option to pitchbend the thing by something like two octaves. I haven’t done that yet, because it sounds kinda terrifying. But, if you’re tonedeaf or have relative pitch or whatever allows you to tolerate that, I suppose you could shift whatever scale down to, like, Geographical C and avoid the black keys. It just wouldn’t work for me: if the thing’s off by a couple of hertz, I’ll notice; if it’s off by dozens, that’s gonna be painful.

It’s got a couple more standard things. Metronome at the thump of a button. The ability to lighten the keys from Normal to Lighter, and to Off; there’s even a Heavier mode, in case having to smash the lowest octave with a running start wasn’t resistant enough for me. MIDI and whatever.

And then there’s USB, updating the DGX505’s ultramodern CompactFlash Reader, which itself had just replaced the DGX500’s Floppy Diskette Reader in 2005. So, I think I might be able to record whatever I’m playing to a thumbdrive; I haven’t tried that yet, despite having had one in my pocket when I didn’t think to find out.

Then, also, the thing’ll USB to a smartphone, allowing you to control it from a touchscreen. Which might be good, since the DGX505’s keypad is missing from the S350: there’s just this knob you can twist to climb up through the pianos and into the trumpets and whatever. There’s a button you can hit to get quickly up into banks of things before twisting through however many types of bagpipes the thing’s got in there, but it’s not quite the same as just hitting Voice and tapping in 147 for the precise thing you’re after.

Honestly, at most, I’ve just been dialling up a couple spots to the Grand Piano or maybe one of the Octave Pianos from Stage Piano, to add a bit of weight to the thing; the rest of the seven hundred different instruments are largely needless, for my purposes.

There’s two different honkytonks, in case I want to hate myself.

On the topic of weight: there isn’t much. The whole thing’s twenty-four pounds. Or, in local terms, about one Morti the Cat. If I were a couple metres taller, I could mallgrab the thing and carry it around with me; there’s no problem at all clutching it amidships and onehanding it anywhere I’d want to go. Except for into my office. Which is messy.

The biggest issue of overall mass was in unboxing it, which I didn’t film. Because they’ve got packing these things down to a science begging for a Nobel at this point: in a shipping box full of bubblewrap and a box splitting molecules to secure the thing in styrofoam [with little hollows for the cords and musicstand and whatever] and a strip of ?plastic up against the keys to prevent less than eighty-eight of them from being depressed until it was removed. The thing doesn’t seem especially fragile once it’s out of the box and sitting on the bed where I started playing with it; packed up, it could probably be dropshipped from orbit without a parachute.

Instead, they forced the FedEx Guy to ring the bell and get a signature from Hunter. Usually, that guy just lobs things toward the house as though I wasn’t recording him being a useless lump.

Smile: you suck at your job.

As far as dust getting into the thing, that might be less of an issue: it’s actually got that furry felt bit at the back of the keyboard I haven’t seen on a digital piano before. I still might wanna cover the whole thing up when I’m not playing it, now that I know that’s a good idea.

And…that’s about what I know about it, so far. I’ll eventually get it here into the office—possibly amidst enough room to sit down and play something on it. And I might try to make more of a habit of coming in here and writing something. Or uploading a video of the thing. Or whatever.

For now, though: have a webcomic:

The rock only weighs a couple of pounds; it’s still really boring.

More later….

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