Ethereality News & Weblog

January 25, 2013

New home, finished

Filed under: My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 10:46 am

Elena and I work very fast when it comes to moving, remodeling, unpacking and decorating. It always seemed surreal to us when we hear stories of people that still have a bunch of unpacked boxes after months or even years of moving into a new place. That would drive us nuts.

After about a month of receiving our shipment, we’re pretty much done, and here are the photos of the new home, finished:

Here are some selected photos for those of you who are in a hurry and don’t have time to go through the full tour in the above link:

January 8, 2013

2013’s resolutions

Filed under: My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 4:12 pm

Yeah, it’s that time again.

2012 was a crazy year where one single decision completely shoved all my plans for that year out the window, so in 2013, I have to play catch up.

Let’s see what I originally had planned for 2012, and what actually happened:

In 2012, I didn’t write a detailed list of resolutions as I did in previous years. Instead, I simply wrote:

So, besides continuing the resolutions from the previous year, do I have any new ones for 2012? Not really. The ones carrying over from the previous year are all long-term goals, and they are the main things I’m focusing on in my life currently, so I’ll just keep up the momentum and hopefully push a bit harder.

The long-term endeavors I mentioned were my novels, my music, and the workshop I teach. I had hoped to get a lot of stuff done, instead, Elena and I spent most of 2012 uprooting our lives and moved back to California from China.

In early spring, Elena suddenly decided her camel’s back had been broken by a news article, and it was time to get the hell out of China. In the article, Fuzhou (the city we lived in, and Elena’s hometown) was ranked number one in digestive system-related cancer in all of China. We had already been worried sick over food safety issues in China for years, and we went out of our way to buy imported food, even if they cost double or triple of locally produced food. (If you want to see how bad food safety is in China, just read this:’s_Republic_of_China) But there’s no way you can import everything you eat–it’s just not logistically feasible. Within an hour of reading that article, we agreed it was time to get the hell out before we end up diagnosed with cancer too (in that year, four of our family and friends all got cancer around the same time, so it was like this dark cloud hanging over us).

And that’s how we ended up spending 2012 moving our life back to the States. We did a ton of research for a city we’d want to live in (real estate prices, crime rate, air quality, weather, tax rates, etc), then rented a temporary apartment in Sacramento, and started looking for a new home in the area. After buying a house in Placer County, we went back to China, sold everything we owned there, packed up all of our belongings into a 40-foot shipping container, and moved to our new house in Lincoln, California (about thirty minutes north/east of Sacramento).

During the holiday season of 2012, including on my birthday (New Year’s Eve), we just unpacked and organized nonstop, and we’re still not finished yet (another couple of weeks to go at least).

While moving was the biggest thing that happened in 2012, there were other things that happened as well, both devastating as well as encouraging things. I’m usually very candid about my life in general, but there are certain bad things I really shouldn’t mention in detail publicly. Let’s just say we lost a lot of money in bad investments, and there was a security breach that caused a lot of damage and anguish for me and the people I work with. The emotional toll of both incidents were extremely hard to deal with, but we have no choice except to carry on, because life will go on regardless if we keep up or not. Getting left behind by the unforgiving forward march of life would be much worse, so you either get over it, or you give up altogether.

The good things that happened include how smoothly our home shopping and moving went (the most problem-free move we’ve ever had; nothing was broken or stolen like before, and no trouble with customs) and how many breakthroughs I’ve had in my writing. 2012 further confirms that writing is what I should continue to focus on in the coming years, and I can’t wait to continue to write as much as I can in 2013.

So that was 2012. What are my plans for 2013?

1) I’ll continue to work hard and be the best teacher I can be to my students. My workshop is still going strong, selling out consecutively over and over, and I’ll continue to evolve it and make it better with each run of the workshop. I spend a lot of time mentoring my alumni students, and I’ll go on doing that for as long as I can.

2) I will write like a demon in 2013 and hit higher word-count than any other year in the past. I hope to finish at least one novel in 2013 and start revising/editing it.

3) If I have time available, I will start finishing the stack of unfinished paintings I’ve had on the back burner for years. I’ve devoted all of my time to teaching and writing and music that I haven’t put any time towards my personal artworks for a while, and I hope to change that this year.

4) I seriously doubt I’ll have time for music in 2013, but in case I do, I’d like to compose more scores for film, TV, and games. I’d also like to write/produce some songs for the K-Pop market (it’s my guilty pleasure). I used to write songs for pop stars in Taiwan, so it’s not that much of a stretch to do the same for another Asian music market.

5) Now that I turned forty, I really need to keep a regular exercise regiment going, or else I might end up like Patrick Nagel (well, I’ve already out-lived him by two years). I also need to cut down on junk food. I already eat very healthy meals (Elena’s very health-conscious as a cook), don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, avoid caffeine, and drink lots of water, but I have a sweet tooth and love fatty junk food, so my snacks are basically cancelling out the good aspects of my lifestyle. I need to substitute the junk food for other types of snacks, or cut back dramatically.

6) I need to find new ways to help Elena improve her English. At this rate, she’s going to end up one of those people who lives in the States for years but can’t even hold a normal conversation in English. That would be unacceptable, because it complicates our lives when I have to translate everything for her all the time, and she basically turns into a mute when we’re out, unable to talk to anyone she comes across in daily life. She chose to move back to the States, and she has to adapt and integrate into this society fully, or forever be an outsider. It’s been an uphill battle for her, and I need to get her over this steep hill.

I know I won’t have time to do all of these things in 2013, so if I had to narrow it down to the most essential things, they would be my teaching, my writing, my health, and helping Elena with her English. Let’s see how I fare a year from now.

January 6, 2013

IK Multimedia ARC 2 review

Filed under: Audio & Music,My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 5:02 pm

I’ve been using IK Multimedia’s ARC System for years to fine tune my room and monitors for a more accurate and neutral sound. Even though the product was helpful, it didn’t work as well as I had hoped, and I had to do extra work in order to achieve the ideal level of accuracy.

When ARC 2 was announced, I was filled with hope because IK Multimedia promised it would improve upon the first version significantly. Now that I’ve upgraded to ARC 2 and had put it through its paces, I can say with a big smile that the new version is much better than the first version in just about every way.

The resolution of ARC 2 is much higher than the previous version, and the measurement/correction is also much more precise. One of the main problems with the first version was the correction being too conservative (especially in the sub-bass region), and I had to create another EQ curve on top of ARC’s correction in order to achieve the ideal neutral frequency response. With version 2, I no longer need to use any additional EQ’ing.

I compared the measurement from the previous version with the new measurement, and the new one sounds far more neutral. With the previous version, the sub-bass frequencies were only modestly corrected, and there were still prominent spikes and dips (such as overbearing sub-bass around 50Hz, or a significant null at 160Hz). With version 2, all that was taken care of. I was actually quite surprised because I couldn’t figure out how a null could be filled (and without any audible distortion too). The new measurement/correction in ARC 2 sounds smoother, more neutral, and even the stereo imaging has improved. I’ve got no complaints, and for those of you who know me, that’s quite a compliment, because I’m very picky about neutral and smooth frequency response.

The new version of ARC has built-in EQ, as well as simulation of various speakers such as a car stereo, bookshelf speakers, laptop speakers, flat screen speakers, boombox, etc, so you can check how your mix/master sounds on various playback devices without having to take your music and actually play it back in your car or in your living room. It’s definitely a nice feature to have, and one I’m sure I’ll use when it’s time to do final mixes/masters. I have that feature available in Isone Pro, but that’s for headphones only, so it’s nice to have it for speakers too.

Overall, I’m pleased with version 2 of ARC, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to achieve a more neutral and accurate sound. Not only does it work really well with rooms that don’t have acoustic treatment, it also works very well in conjunction with rooms that already have extensive acoustic treatment (such as in my case).

What many people don’t realize, is that acoustic treatments typically can only take care of some of the problems a room has, and a product like the ARC System can handle the problems that the acoustic treatment couldn’t. The reverse is also true; it’s best to not rely on ARC solely, and if you can add acoustic treatments to the equation, it’s better than not having any. The most ideal situation is to have both acoustic treatment and ARC, so they are working hand-in-hand to achieve what neither could achieve on their own. If you work in a professional mastering studio with expensive expert-designed acoustics that’s impeccably accurate and neutral, then you probably don’t need the ARC, but for the rest of us–those who turn their bedrooms and basements into home studios, or those with more modest studio spaces, ARC 2 is one of the best things you could ever spend money on for your studio.

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