Armando Garbanzo

February 27th, 2015

Well, Facebook is changing things up again! My www.facebook.com/ricobelled page is on a so-called “artist account” and now FB is forcing me to connect it to a personal page! I’ve quite deliberately kept this world separate from my personal one, because I don’t want to be in high school again, so I’ll be forced to create a new page not under my real name. I’m thinking it’ll have to be my alter ego Armando Garbanzo’s time to get with the times….

 

Armando Garbanzo yo soy

Have you bean with Armando Garbanzo

Game changer: part deux

February 17th, 2015

Well, it seemed to be too good to be true………… now it almost certainly was: the Asus Zenfone 2 that’ll cost $199 will not be the one with a 5.5″ screen and the newest Intel Atom cpu! Damn marketing BS! Now that we’re getting closer to the actual release date, it turns out there’s another model that was not announced with that initial under $200 price tag: a 5″ 720P device with an older, dual-core Atom, although still with 2GB of RAM and LTE support. Not a bad deal, but certainly not a game changer……..

The Pabst diet

February 12th, 2015

In other beer news: just like me, my two buddies from Holland love Pabst Blue Ribbon, one of the cheapest brand name beers one can buy around here! Without the preconceived notions that come with growing up stateside, they were free to appreciate its smooth flavor and easy drinkability. Most of the numbskulls in this town of posers frown upon me for drinking it, instead preferring such incredible brews as Michelob Ultra or Miller Genuine Draft (pfwwwww). When Jo and Jaap went to Merced, CA for a party of about 100 local farmers, they had two choices: Bud Light and Coors Light! WTF? And even more amazingly, the supporters of each camp would talk shit about the taste of the others’ beer! What is the world coming to if even the creators of food have forgotten what real food tastes like? At least there weren’t any vegetarians or gluten free folks…..

The amazing thing about the 17 day visit of my friends, who left yesterday, is that after a couple of weeks of bacon&eggs for breakfast almost daily, serious drinking most nights and enjoying many, many of the delicious eats around my neck of the woods, I got on my scale this morning and realized I’d lost 5 pounds! In trying to analyze how I’d lived differently, probably the most important thing was that we only ate when we were hungry, instead of snacking throughout the day. And what a great feeling to truly be so hungry you feel like you could eat a horse (delicious BTW)! On Tuesday we did something I never do: have a giant burger for the first meal of the day. Guess what? I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day! Had a bowl of cereal before my gig that night and that was that!

It was very helpful for me to see my buddies, who are almost the same age as I am, live the way they do, even if on vacation. They don’t live what would be considered particularly healthily, but both are slim, make me look like a fatso! Johan is more physically active, has no car for instance and does everything on a bike or walking, but Jaap is an IT guy. What’s so liberating is that both live life to the fullest, eat anything and everything, and are as healthy as one could possibly be! Good genes perhaps play a role, but really it’s just about moderation and regular physical activity, just like we already knew a hundred years ago!

Can versus green bottle

February 12th, 2015

For years I’ve been saying it, and for years almost nobody believed me. I’m not saying I have the most delicate palate in the world, but Heineken from the bottle tasted inferior to what came out of a can! A couple of friends of mine from Holland were staying with me for the last couple of weeks, so it was time to do a test: buy both formats, chill to the same temperature, pour both into a fresh glass and taste. Johan did the preparation, and Japie, who was almost as skeptical of my claim as the former, and I were the uninformed testers. We even cleansed our palettes between tastings, and repeated three times.

So? I only needed one taste to know! Damnit, I was right! Japie agreed and it was clear: the can was smoother, noticeably so, and more like Heineken tastes when you get it from the tap in Holland! Mind you, I prefer drinking from a glass bottle to can, but there’s something that happens to beer in a green bottle, because the brown bottles it comes in back home don’t have this problem! It’s probably got something to do with certain frequencies of light that do or do not get blocked……..

Game changer

January 19th, 2015

In my opinion Asus is about to truly change the game when it comes to mobile phones. I’m not kidding, a storm is a-coming! Let’s first see what $200 gets you these days: a 5″ Moto G, or perhaps a 4.5″ one with LTE, a mid-tier Windows Phone or perhaps a lesser known brand Android device with mid-range specs. The cheapest thing Apple sells will still be north of $400, and then you’re talking about a tiny device.

So what’s so exciting? It’s called the Zenfone 2 and here’s what two Benjamins will buy: 5.5″ 1080P IPS screen, quad-core Intel cpu with LTE support, 13MP camera, 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM (twice what the iPhone 6+ has!) and a 3000mAh battery. Wait? Is that right? Yes it is! Mind you, this is $200 off-contract! How the hell is this possible from a name brand to boot?

The answer is two-fold: first of all, as cell phones become more and more common, manufacturing ramping up and such, it becomes cheaper to make them. This is exactly the problem with iPhones and limiting yourself to only one brand: you remove competition from the pricing. At the same time, this price is too low to make economic sense and this is where Intel plays a role. You see, in an effort to take market share from Qualcomm, Samsung and ARM in general, it is practically giving away its Atom chips. They’re highly competitive in performance, only trailing slightly in the GPU department, but beating even the Apple SOCs in raw compute. In a way it’s a direct attack on the Fruit, maybe to try to convince it to use Intel for upcoming iPhones……

It certainly sets up the perfect playing field for the same to happen to Apple in the mobile field that happened with PCs years ago. For a while one can command a premium for something different and special, but NO company can compete with all others for very long and as feature parity develops, price matters more and more. Why, oh why would you spend $750 for an iPhone 6+ when you can get pretty much the same thing (and of course in my opinion a better system) for $200? At some point the fashion aspect becomes irrelevant, especially the more Apple falls behind in usability.

For now, at least here in the US, many, MANY still don’t realize how much they’re really paying for that iPhone. I just had this discussion with a few people at a gig, and of course musicians aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but I can tell when they are beginning to realize I might have a point in saying that 6+ did not cost them $200. Denial is a human trait though and most quickly find an excuse to dismiss the argument or find a way to change the topic.

Verizon subsidy update

January 10th, 2015

It turns out that what I wrote earlier on these pages about the Verizon phone upgrade subsidy wasn’t exactly correct; instead of the $25 discount for not getting an upgrade, the real discount is $15 per month. Still, this means $180 per year, or $360 for the duration of the 2 year contract. That means that if you pay $300 for that iPhone 6+, plus tax on the full $750 retail price (~$50), your total cost after 2 years is $710. It’s still mind blowing that people living paycheck to paycheck would drop that kind of coin on such a disposable item, which will be outdated by the time it’s paid for…..

Network Attached Storage

January 5th, 2015

It was time…..it’s BEEN time! I finally broke down and bought myself a NAS unit, to be precise: the Buffalo Linkstation Pro Quad, with space for four drives, and two external USB devices. The LS-QVLE as it’s lovingly known was on sale for half its normal $250 price, so with 2 3TB WD Red drives I ordered along with it, it’ll give me a RAID 1 (redundant array of inexpensive drives) of 3 Terabytes double buffered, accessible to all my computers on the network at Gigabit speed. I have two regular 1.5 TB Seagates I might throw in there, or I might stick an SSD and one of the Seagates in there. The bottom line is, it was time to get seriously organized about my digital data.

I’m amazed at the amount of studios I’ve worked at that do not have a simple effective backup system in place. Many of us still don’t realize how inherently unreliable hard disks are! Let me tell you, even brand new drives can die at ANY moment, sometimes without warning. The ONLY way to be safe is to have multiple copies of whatever data you care about; after any recording, you should immediately make a copy of all data on a separate drive, preferably NOT directly attached to the computer you’re working on, as a nice power surge might fry everything hooked up to the same power source. A NAS unit somewhere else in the house is a good start, although every time I go to Holland, I leave a USB drive with all my important stuff (masters of my recordings and such) with my brother.

The cloud is awesome for storing relatively small amounts of data; just make sure it’s encrypted! But for the big stuff, local redundant copies is the ticket. On a Gigabit network, you can move data around at around 100MB/s, that’s MegaBytes, or as fast as most spinning hard drives can take. Just as a point of reference: the masters for XR7 total about 40GB. Uploading that to the web through my modest internet connection would take more than 2000 hours! That’s 83 days! Dumping it on my NAS would take 7 minutes………

It took me a while to get this thing set up, just checking the array took 25 hours, and unfortunately I accidentally turned off the power at hour 18 the first time, triggering a complete restart of the process. But eventually it finished, and the first data has been transferred. I’m looking forward to having all my video, audio, documents, Ableton and Sonar projects in one central place! More later…

Atlantis Resort: Part Deux

January 4th, 2015

We have to take Internet reviews with grains of salt, but today I decided to Google to see what others say about Atlantis and found this…….. BOY! As evidenced by some of the language some of the reviewers are not the brightest bulbs, but still, you can tell there’s something structurally wrong over there. Quite shocking for such an expensive place…..

Atlantis Resort

January 3rd, 2015

Just got back from perhaps the biggest New Year’s Eve gig I’ve ever done, at Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, and it was quite a fascinating trip actually. I might not make a lot of money as a musician, but one of the best perks is visiting and staying at awesome places and the one thing my career has afforded me is my own room wherever we stay. I haven’t shared a room on tour in more than 15 years as a matter of fact, and this high-end gig was supposed to be no exception! I could’ve worked for just $200 less 15 miles from my house at the Woodland Hills Country Club, stress free, no parking fees, or $20 dollar sandwiches at the airport, but 3 nights at one of the most amazing resorts in the world made it worth it.

atlantis-bahamas

Unfortunately, the night before we left, I received an email from the boss: sorry, the hotel fucked up, you have to share rooms! Just like that, no offer for compensation, nothing. The obligatory “I’m doing everything to get you rooms”, which turned out to be worthless. I’m still not sure who’s fault it actually was, but I would assume that if it really was the hotel, they would’ve offered us some kind of perk: resort credit, or something! That didn’t happen, but we’ll have to see if the check I get next week has a little extra, because let me tell you: this place is PRICEY!

More about the money later, first the experience of what’s called Paradise Island. I’d seen it from a cruise ship a couple of times and of course on the web, and it does seem like Paradise, basically an entire Island, right off the coast of Nassau, owned entirely by the resort, with multiple towers in various price ranges, all kinds of beaches, a big water park, Vegas style casino, private Marina etc. One of the band members just got married, and because the hotel would give him a discount on the room, he decided to add 2 days to make it a honeymoon. The $450 per night rate, turned into $600 after all the added fees, so expectations were somewhat high. On check-in we got a sobering reminder that we were still at the lowest end of this resort’s totem-pole: the girls at the desk were cold, rude and slow as molasses! My roomie Alex and I finally got our keys and we went up to the room. Each of us got two keys, none worked! Not even a red light as we swiped, just nothing. Damn, I’m tired, too tired for this, but I guess it happens. We go down to the lobby, half a mile walk away, because there are NO house phones and are told the battery in the door is dead, to go back up and wait for security to let us in.

About 10 minutes later a dude shows up, verifies our identity and lets us in the room with a physical master key, but doesn’t fix the door! He says someone will come at some point to put a new battery in. What? I know about ‘island time’ but come on! I’m starting to get a sinking feeling when I see the room: basically on par with a Best Western, old TV, polyester sheets, foamy pillows, decent bed though, somewhat worn out stained carpet everywhere, but of course with a view of the ocean! Wow, if I had paid $500 a night for this, I’d be quite surprised and disappointed. I’ve stayed at worse places of course and I’m always willing to overlook just about anything in the name of having a good time. We had decided to hook up with a couple of the other guys to get a night cap, and when they show up they tell us they don’t have a phone in their room, and the hotel told them they wouldn’t get one until the next day! Mind you, we’re in a different country, most of our cellphones don’t work, internet is $22 a day and we have no idea what the schedule is for the next day. This is getting worse by the hour….

We go down to have a drink ($28 for a vodka cranberry and a beer BTW!), walk around for a second only to find out all pools are closed already and swimming in the ocean is not allowed anymore so it’s probably time to go and get some sleep. Alex and I get to the room: not one of the keys works, red light on all of them! You’ve got to be kidding me! On the way to getting new ones we run into the band leader and are informed of an 11PM meeting is his room. When we hit ours after, we can’t get in…..red light for all 4 new keys……. trust me, incredibly this happened 3 more times in as many days! The grumpy employees keep blaming it on proximity to cell phones, getting wet….even when we have kept them away from everything, bone dry…… this is incredible. At some point one guy behind the counter is actually smiling……but of course, his badge says he’s “in training”, I kid you not…….

The actual gig goes fine, and on this day they’re providing food and water throughout. Between sound check at the show I decide to walk around the resort and scope it out by myself, since the rest of the band pretty much lives on Facebook 24/7, glued to their iPhones. The place is packed beyond belief, not only with resort guests but also passengers from cruise ships docked nearby, who pay to hang out there for the day. There are some cool enormous fish tanks, which can be viewed from below and the water park looks decent, if not stuffed with screaming kids. There’s Dolphin Cay where you can ‘interact’ with the animals, at enormous cost of course: you’re not allowed to take your own pix, but for $120 you can get a CD-ROM with photos they take of you. That’s in addition to the fees for the activity itself! The casino is more expensive than the high-end ones in Vegas with mostly $100 minimum bets. Impressive! Time to go back and work, hopefully some fun tomorrow……

After a decent night’s sleep on polyester, four of us go to explore Aquaventure. We do the Mayan slide which sends you on an inner tube through a tube that goes through the middle of a shark tank, and another similar one that just ends in the ‘lazy river’ which snakes through the park. It’s kinda cloudy, but still reasonably warm, so it’s quite relaxing. These rides are actually free! There are pools with giant turtles, and crazy rays…. a sort of cave system with various fish tanks, containing everything from jellyfish to piranhas. Pretty cool, but honestly not that amazing. Of course I’ve been quite spoiled in my life and I can imagine that for some this is spectacular. The best part of the trip comes that night, when six of us take a cab into town to go to dinner at “Fish Fry”, a truly local restaurant with excellent food. My, my, I’m so glad I didn’t pay to stay in Paradise!

The-Reef-Atlantis-Bahamas-Waterslide

Now I fully realize we stayed with the plebs in the Beach Towers, and “The Cove”, where Beyonce stays when she’s there might be a different experience, but I cannot believe how mediocre this place is. My advice: don’t ever stay there! You can visit for a fee, but get a local hotel and enjoy the bizarre craziness that is the Bahamas! Our cabbie on the way back to ‘Paradise’ popped a bottle of beer with one hand, while driving with the other, poured most into a soda cup with ice, drank what didn’t fit from the bottle, and sipped the rest through a straw, going 80 miles an hour to get us to the liquor store before it closed! And like he said in relation to their English manner of driving: “The left side is the right side, the right side is suicide!”

IS(IS)

December 28th, 2014

There’s some tentatively positive news about Is(is): the terror organization is having a very hard time keeping its caliphate together. This comes from a Dutch reporter who’s very knowledgeable and spends a lot of time in the actual Middle East. According to the story she told, most effort is going towards plundering, rape and other assorted random violence that keeping the ‘peace’ is not possible.

You know, I was never as worried about Isis as many were; at some point, local people will have to take care of their own business, and in my opinion, there are not going to be very many, even hard-core Muslims, who want a regime that brings such indiscriminate terror. It’s obvious that a strong power, that doesn’t shy away from violence against its own people, is what they’re used to over there, and Saddam Hussein ran a pretty stable and tight ship, but this is going too far. The Islamic State has a lot of money, but you need more than that to rule the roost; you need at least reluctant cooperation of most, because you will run out of resources otherwise.

There’s still a role for global military intervention, on large scale conflicts, but it’s time for the West to stop micro-managing other territories. Deposing one cruel leader, only for the next guy to step up and be worse, is not going to help anyone. As a matter of fact, it will only create more hate towards the US. Don’t forget it was the CIA who armed Bin Laden, trained many over there! And look at the weapons Isis uses! Peace must always come from within……