Stupid Software Tricks

Yesterday I wasted a couple of hours trying to install Native Instruments Absynth 5 on my Windows PC. I have no doubt that it’s a great instrument — and overall, I’m consistently knocked out by NI. The installer for this particular synthesizer, however, left a bit to be desired.

I told it to install on the L: drive. That’s where I install all my software now, because C: is basically full. But it insisted that it needed a bunch of space on C:. Like, 2.5 GB in order to run a 650 MB installer. Weird. So I cleaned out a bunch of stuff from folders called Temp. Still not enough space. Next, I drag-copied a bunch of stuff from Program Files over to the M: drive temporarily and erased it from C:. Now I could run the installer.

At the end of the process, I found that Absynth had installed a 1.0 GB library of samples to the C: drive, even though I had specifically told the installer at every available opportunity that I wanted to install on L:. That meant I wouldn’t have enough room to copy the stuff from Program Files back onto C:.

Regretfully, I gave up. I ran the uninstaller for Absynth. But that’s not the end of the story.

The uninstaller did not remove the 1.0 GB library. If I were a less sophisticated computer guy, that huge folder would just sit there gathering dust forever, because I wouldn’t know where to look for it. Also left on the C: drive Read more


Thinking vaguely about retiring. Or, to be more precise, about drifting into retirement. Gradually becoming more selective about the kinds of things I do. Turns out this is one of the benefits of being self-employed: You can retire gradually.

I expect I’ll keep writing for the music magazines for a long time to come. For one thing, I love getting free software to play with! But some recent physical problems with my left hand have shown me that my days as a cello teacher are numbered. I don’t know the number, but the number is writ in the place where such things are writ.

I’ve always enjoyed good health, and I’ve always (in recent years, anyway) had a very positive attitude about my activities. My plan for growing older is, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

It occurred to me last night that I’m operating under a false assumption. The assumption is that for as long as I live, I’ll be able to keep doing what I’m doing.

Today I love playing the piano. I play for an hour or so every day. But I’m remembering my parents’ friend Roger. Roger switched to electronic organ as he got older, because the sound of the piano became harsh as his ears deteriorated.

Today I love playing the cello. But why put myself through the wringer by playing in a local pit orchestra? That’s not a peak music-making experience, it’s a grind — a pit experience, if you will. Every hour I spend playing the cello should be an hour of unalloyed pleasure.

Today I love reading. And my eyes still work. But the truth is, my left eye works better than my right one. At any moment I could find myself otherwise healthy but unable to read. Yeah, there are books for the blind, but it’s not the same thing. For one thing, a lot of the things I read are not mainstream. They won’t have been recorded.

So as I contemplate my piecemeal retirement plan, I need to be conscious of the need to create more free time to do things while I’m still young enough that I can physically do them.

Missing Information

Trying to do research into daily life in Chicago in 1885 without spending a ton of money. It’s hard! I’ve spent a couple of hundred on books so far. Ran into another one tonight that looks essential, but it’s $55, so I’m going to resist for a week or two.

There’s lots of good stuff at university libraries, but they won’t let me into the stacks at Stanford without a student ID card, and I’m not about to fly to Illinois to try to sneak into the University of Chicago library.

Tonight I was looking into the question of indoor plumbing. Or trying to. If you’re going to include a scene in your novel that’s set in a kitchen, you’d like to know whether there are faucets above the sink, or a pump handle, or whether the pump handle would have been outside the kitchen door. In that era, a lot would have depended on whether the inhabitants of the house were wealthy, middle class, or poor. Also, perhaps, on the neighborhood. I know Chicago had water mains, but I don’t know which outlying districts were supplied. And I don’t know whether houses would have had wells, because Chicago was built on land that had been a low-lying marsh. What happens if you dig a well in a marsh?

I’ve read that by the 1870s, a hot water tank would likely have been mounted above the back of the stove. The stove would probably have burnt coal, but perhaps gas — that’s another detail I don’t know. I know there were gas lines running under the streets, because when Chicago was digging trenches for cable car lines in 1881, rerouting the gas, water, and sewer lines complicated the process. But what were the gas lines feeding? Street lights? In-home lighting, or only lights in the business district?

And the big steam engines that provided power for the factories — coal or gas? It makes a difference, because coal smoke was a major pollutant at the time. When not choking on the coal smoke, however, Chicagoans in 1885 rode bicycles. The high front wheel bicycle was the latest fad. Citizens were sometimes arrested for speeding on their bikes (the slang term was “scorching”), because of course the bikes were the fastest thing on the street, short of a galloping horse.

And yes, there were a lot of horses. They pulled streetcars, private wagons, and so on. I found a wonderful little 30-second clip of a film of a Chicago street, made in 1897 by Thomas Edison (or someone in his employ). Amazingly dense crowds, and horses in the foreground.

What I really want is a time machine!