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So perhaps the clouds are beginning to part ever so slightly. On Tuesday Irret announced that she was going full time at her other position (she had being doing both for a few weeks), and would no longer be our supervisor. I wasn't the only one who had to keep a smile off my face until the meeting was over.

In other news...there hasn't been a whole lot of other news. Best Buy was insane the day after Thanksgiving. I did pick up a 120 GB hard drive for $50 after rebates, though. And to think I paid something like $375 for an 18.2 GB (SCSI, 10k RPM admittedly) drive not 4 years ago.

So who wants to come over and pick up the leaves in the back yard?

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Am I the only one who finds the term "home cookin(g)" ever so slightly dubious? We ate at Monty's tonight, which mind you, I quite enjoy. However, I noticed the aforementioned phrase plastered on the staff's T-shirts and thought "this isn't even home style cooking - how often do I eat spicy waffle fries at home, fresh out of the deep fryer?" There's certainly no way it's "home cookin'" - I don't know about you, but I don't have two guys I don't know with hair nets in the kitchen making my meal for me at home. If I did I've have no reason to go out for "home cookin'".

At any rate, dinner was good.

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Random note - Barry Alvarez almost ran us off the road when we were both getting on to Hwy 30 today.

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We saw Matrix Revolutions tonight. I must say it was worse than I ever could have imagined. That's not to say I didn't leave entertained. Just that almost the whole movie felt like a parody of the series, rather than another edition to it. Surprisingly, the end was *better* than I was expecting. Or, at the very least, there was much more of a sense of resolution than I was expecting. As for the rest of the movie, though, for much of it my feeling was "I honestly don't care what happens, if Zion falls or not."

Oh well. We'll see how the next installment is.

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So work is somewhat tolerable when our supervisor is gone. That's not to say I enjoy it, but it at least isn't totally miserable. When she's there, however, things generally take a big turn for the worse. Witness today.

During our afternoon break, a few of us were together talking. This is hardly unique - a large number of people stay "on the floor" and chat during break. Well, this apparently displeases Irret (name changed to protect the guilty) greatly. But rather than just come over and say "hey guys, could you keep it down a little, thanks", she just walked over and stood on the other side of the desk we were at. I pretended not to see her, but eventually one of the people there acknowledged her. We got the usual "SOME people are still trying to work" (Irret can't seem to work when there's even the slightest hint of noise).

At that point I went back to my desk to read my book. Before break I was in the middle of something, so I ended up working a few minutes into break. So when break ended, I continued to read my book. Irret comes walking by and says (in her best third grade teacher tone) "Um, Luke, break is over." "Yeah, I know, but I worked 3 minutes into break, so I'm going to read for a few more minutes." "Er, um...[walks away, speechless]"

In addition to all of that, she seems to hate it when people ask her for help. The typical answer is "what does Textbook (the help system) say?" Well, you know, not everything is in Textbook, and often what's in there isn't very clear. Today somebody had an attachment with their claim, and they asked Irret "would this be an attachment 48?" Her response: [quite sternly] "I don't know", as if she couldn't be bothered. And when she *does* explain things, she talks down to you as if you were a third grader.

We'll see what she says when I tell her I want to apply for some of the IS jobs posted there.

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Oh the Humanities!

I know Zach and Paul will yell at me, but I always thought Ogg kind of sucked anyway.

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This is too good not to post:
You need to give us some idea on what you might want for Christmas other than a new job.
OS X is humming along nicely.

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Well, I've finally done *something* usefull. I got around to installing OS X. Yes, I'm in OS X as I type this. Of course, that was probably the easy part. The hard part will be tweaking the hell out of it until I actually find it useful.

I took the day off from Lexmark today. I needed it. We saw Al Franken - I even got my book signed. Quite enjoyable.

I should really get back to making OS X less annoying.

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So, with the more or less constant downpour of rain over the past few days came water in the basement. Not a *lot* - just puddles here and there, luckily - but enough to be annoying. I must say this is a bit of a foreign concept to me - in all of my 20+ years of living at home we *never* had water in the basement, and that house doesn't even have a sump pump.

Last night I spent an hour or so cleaning things up - a shop vac with a squeegee attachment is a *wonderful* thing. Today I went back down to check things out, and what do you know - more water, despite the fact that it hasn't rained any more since then. What's interesting is there doesn't seem to be any specific place where it's coming from. It seems to be literally coming through the floor.

Hopefully some longer downspouts and cleaning the gutter helmets (when they get dirty the water just flows off of them, instead of down into the gutters) will fix everything. Of course, who knows when such a plan can actually be tested.

On a totally different note, the other night I was *dreaming* about processing claims. Yeah, that's some scary shit, I know.

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Work still sucks. And it's getting worse. On Friday I was told I couldn't wear my headphones. When I inquired why, I was told "it wouldn't be fair to the people who are on the phone all day." I don't know what's worse - that people who work on the phone were apparently complaining about it, or that "the powers that be" agreed with them. YOU'RE ON THE FUCKING PHONE ALL DAY. OF COURSE YOU CAN'T WEAR HEADPHONES.

But I digress.

Unfortunately, when you work 7 days a week, there's not a whole lot else to talk about.

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Tommy: Deluxe Edition

Many of the tracks found on this new CD/SACD set have had a confusing history - remixes, alternate vocals, alternate takes, you name it. Well, let's just say that this set adds to that confusion, although not necessarily in a bad way.

The set is actually comprised of a number of different elements: the original stereo mix of the album in CD and SACD form, a 5.1 channel remix of the album on SACD, various out-takes from the sessions mixed in both stereo and 5.1, 2 rare tracks from the sessions, again remixed, and a handful of Pete's demos in stereo only. And there's also the packaging. Since each element is unique, I'll go over them individually, in somewhat of a reverse order.

The packaging - At first glance this is pretty stunning. The digipak (standard for Deluxe Editions) contains quite a few photos from the recording sessions, as well as reproductions of some of Pete's notes regarding the layout of the album. The booklet has a *lot* more photos from the sessions, more reproductions, and liner notes from Matt Kent. All taken on their own, a great package.

However, perhaps just as important is what's missing. When Tommy came out on LP the packaging was pretty lavish - tri-fold cover and a booklet with the lyrics and a lot of illustrations. None of that is reproduced here. Nor is there any sign of the original cover with the band members' faces intact. Yes, I'm aware they were added after the fact, but nevertheless it would have been nice to have at least a miniature reproduction of the original cover. Also, the liner notes by Richard Barnes from the 1996 remix CD are not included either.

The demos - The demos to Tommy are much prized (on bootleg) by hard core Who fans, and rightfully so. Up to this point, however, only two demos from the session have seen official release: Christmas and Pinball Wizard, both on Pete's Another Scoop release. Pinball Wizard had its mid section edited out, and Christmas was a very simple (piano, guitar, vocal) later version with only the first two verses. Both were presented in somewhat processed stereo - since they were just twin-track recordings, one track was mixed center, while the other was split left and right with a delay.

That brings us to the Deluxe Edition. All the tracks are presented in twin-track form (one track hard left, one hard right), although all of the tracks other than Do You Think It's Alright feature some added echo to make the two channels seem less disjoint. In addition, all would seem to feature a bit of noise reduction. There's still tape hiss, but all seem to have a bit of a "processed" quality to them. Nevertheless, they still sound quite good.

It's A Boy, Do You Think It's Alright, and Pinball Wizard are essentially identical to the versions found on bootleg (other than the echo). Christmas is the same take that's found on Another Scoop, despite early reports that it would be the early/complete take found on bootleg. Amazing Journey is an interesting case, however. The version found on bootleg has all kinds of noises and backwards tape effects. None of that is found here. This would seem to be the version one layer (or more) before that. Since the final/bootleg version repeats certain sections, the new version is much shorter - it fades out at 3:41.

Rare tracks - The Deluxe Edition collects two fairly rare tracks: Young Man Blues, which was released on the LP The House That Track Built, and Dogs Part 2, which was the B-side of Pinball Wizard and was reissued on Two's Missing. Fans have been yearning to hear Young Man Blues on CD for years, but for whatever reason it never made it. It was slated to be included on the remixed Odds & Sods in 1998, but for some reason an inferior, alternate take was used for that set. With the Deluxe Edition we finally have the original "correct" take, kind of. As with all of the non-demo material on disc 2, this song has been remixed, both for stereo and 5.1. The result, while interesting in its own right, is nothing like the original stereo mix. That was a majestic production, with a lot of echo and a killer sounding guitar solo. The new mix is mixed much more like an out-take - there's almost no echo to speak of, so it sounds like you're listening to a really awesome bootleg rather than a finished mix. Also, the drums and vocals are *very* loud, which tend to drown out the bass and guitar. While I do find the new mix interesting, I think the original mix is much more powerful and "the one to have if you're having only one."

Dogs Part 2 is different as well. The original mix was mixed just as The Who's live shows are - bass left, drums and vocals center, guitar right. Well, this new mix adds a second (distorted) bass track, which is placed right, thus moving the guitar to the center. As with Young Man Blues, the drums are very loud, and the guitar is slightly buried, although not quite as much as on that track. I'm a bit more mixed as far as preferring one version or another, although it is too bad the original mix was not used.

It should be noted that the version of Eyesight To The Blind with alternate vocals (found on some UK LP pressings of Tommy, as well as the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs gold CD) is *not* included on this set. That means the rare MFSL CD is the only place to find this version on CD.

Out-takes - Other than Cousin Kevin Model Child (which is present in a new mix), all of these tracks are unreleased. Some (Christmas, Tommy Can You Hear Me, Tommy's Holiday Camp and Welcome) are unfinished backing tracks, while the rest are more or less fully realized, at least to the extent that they have vocals. Cousin Kevin Model Child is a slightly different mix to the one found on Odds & Sods; this one has double-tracked vocals. The studio chatter between the Sally Simpson out-takes is simply priceless. One of the most interesting out-takes is the alternate take of We're Not Gonna Take It. This sounds like a finished take, with bass, drums, guitar, organ, and multitracked vocals. It is closely modeled after Pete's demo (found on bootleg), and doesn't feature the Listening To You section present on the final version.

The sound on the out-takes is quite good, albeit quite "immediate". It seems likely noise reduction was applied in places (perhaps on the individual tracks before mixing, rather than on the finished stereo mixes), although some hiss is present, and the overall sound is fairly enjoyable.

The original album - Here is where much confusion lies. Tommy has been issued on CD several times previously, and the sound quality has varied with each release. In addition, the album was remixed from scratch from the 8-track session tapes for the 1996 CD issue. Preferences vary widely - I prefer the MFSL CD, while others prefer the 1993 MCA single disc remaster of the original mix or the 1996 remix. It was stated in the booklet of the 1996 CD that the original stereo tapes were burned after the album was cut to vinyl, and that all subsequent LPs and CDs were made from tape copies. MFSL even noted that they could not locate the master tapes when they prepared their CD in the early '90s, and as such used Pete Townshend's personal copy (which in fact had the alternate version of Eyesight To The Blind).

Many fans suspected the "masters were burned" story was nothing but an urban legend, and if all of the PR surrounding this Deluxe Edition is to be believed, that's all it was. The stereo mix here purportedly comes from the original stereo master tapes "for the first time". It's unclear if this is truth or simply record company hype (it seems quite possible that the 1993 MCA CD was taken from the original tapes as well), and copies of masters are not necessarily poor sounding beasts, but whatever the case, what we have here is the original stereo mix, much to this fan's pleasure.

Feelings on this new version are already widely varied, this being only the day after release. Some feel the new release blows away all previous CD versions. Others feel it is horribly harsh, compressed, and noise reduced. And yet others feel there is a significant difference between the CD and stereo SACD layers. There has to be some middle ground, does there not?

First the matter of the CD and (stereo) SACD versions. While some might describe the differences between the two as "night and day", I'll honestly say I can hear little, *if any*, difference between them. Perhaps my SACD player isn't "top of the line" enough (it's a Sony CE775)? Possibly, although I was under the impression that *any* SACD player should show a significant improvement over CD. No matter. My line is that the two (stereo) layers are nearly identical, and I'm sticking to it, at least until I invest in some fairy dust equipment that suggests otherwise.

So, ok, the two layers aren't that different. But what about compared to other CDs? Well, as previously stated, my CD of choice has been the MFSL CD. It isn't "sparkling" or "bright and shiny", but it does have a very natural sound to it. Compared to the Deluxe Edition, there's a clear difference. The MFSL CD has certain midrange frequencies "sucked out" as it were, which causes the cymbals and vocals to be a bit more back in the overall sound. The new set has those frequencies brought up a bit, which in turn brings the cymbals and vocals a bit more to the front. Truth be told, I don't know which is more like the sound of the master tapes themselves, although it has been stated that most MFSL CDs were flat transfers with no added EQ. Nevertheless, I've found myself showing a general preference for the Deluxe Edition, mainly due to the perceived increase in clarity. That said, there are places where I prefer the MFSL CD, notably Underture, where the Deluxe Edition seems a *hair* "splashy" in comparison.

Essentially, the two discs each have a different sound. Each have their strong points. Could I say I prefer one wholly over the other? No.

For the sake of comparison, I pulled out the 1993 MCA CD as well. Here's something different from either of the aforementioned versions. The midrange is slightly recessed like the MFSL CD, while the treble is brought up a bit. Yet another sound, one which isn't necessarily bad, but one which is the least pleasurable for me.

It should be noted that while each of these versions sounds *different*, it's not really fair to say any sounds "better", at least from a strictly technical standpoint. That is, it seems as if the sources used for each of these CDs were pretty similar. There aren't major dropouts or flaws present on one CD and not the others, nor are there major differences in levels of tape hiss.

A major complaint in past mastering efforts by Jon Astley is the use of noise reduction, a technique generally looked down upon by audiophile types. For lack of a better analogy, it can "suck the life out" of recordings, as well as introduce audible artifacts, such as "swishing" and "ringing". Luckily, Mr. Astley has greatly scaled back his NR use as of late, although he hasn't quit using it entirely. In general, its use here is limited to the fade-outs of songs - the bodies of most songs don't seem to feature any NR. A notable exception is Eyesight To The Blind, where the left channel is treated to NR, apparently for the entire song. Not only was this unnecessary (it's not as if this was a particularly hissy song), but it has lead to a very "dead" quality in the left channel. If I had one major complaint about the mastering here, it would be the noise reduction. To put it another way, I would have been very pleased with the mastering had the NR not been applied.

As a side note, in addition to the NR, everything is faded down to digital silence between tracks. We wouldn't want any tape hiss there, now would we?! This is also the case with the 1993 MCA CD (without the noise reduction, of course). The MFSL CD, on the other hand, plays the tape back "straight", without any fading down of the hiss between tracks. I prefer this method for two reasons: 1) it gives you a sense of what it is like to listen to the actual tape, and 2) it lets you more easily hear the last drops of sound in the fade-outs.

It should also be noted that the audio seems to be slightly compressed. That is, the distance between the loudest and softest passages has been reduced, as to make the disc seem to have a louder sound. Some abhor the practice, and while I find it totally unnecessary (if you want it louder, turn up the volume on your stereo), I don't think the amount used here is enough to cause serious problems with the sound. A visual inspection of the wave forms shows a slight "buzz cutting" of the peaks, but it also shows a healthy dose of dynamics as well. I honestly don't think anyone should get too hung up on the compression used here.

Well, I've talked for quite some time about the stereo mix, what about the (new) 5.1 multichannel mix? Well, while I have an SACD player capable of 5.1 reproduction, I unfortunately don't have a 5.1 amp. I *have* listened to the mixes a bit, 2 channels at a time, and while they don't seem to be much like the originals (again they seem to have a somewhat dry/naked sound), they are interesting in their own right. While a more faithful approach would have been nice, I don't see anything inherently wrong with this, either. I'm looking forward to hearing all 5.1 channels together at some point.

It's been said a number of times before, but based on what I've been reading lately, it really needs to be said again: this set is an SACD hybrid. That is, there's a (stereo) CD layer, playable in most every CD player out there. There's also an SACD layer, which has both stereo and 5.1 mixes, which is only playable in SACD players. And while some have claimed otherwise, the stereo mix of the album itself was *not* remixed; it is the same mix as released on the original vinyl.

So, there you have it. A great collection? Yes. Is the stereo mastering good? For the most part, yes. Mind blowing? No. Should everyone donate to the "Luke needs a 5.1 receiver" fund? Obviously.

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The Simpsons Archive

Vital stats:
DOB 2/16/79. I'm a web developer at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. I like lots of old music, including The Who. I spend a lot of time working with computers. And my favorite TV show (when I actually decide to watch TV, that is), obviously, is The Simpsons.

In May 2002 I officially graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BS in computer science. In 1997 (man that seems like a long time ago) I graduated from Washington Park HS. Yes, I know, that site isn't very impressive, and no, I haven't touched it for several years.

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One of the best experiences I have ever had was on a trip called Western Field Studies. This is a 33 day adventure throughout the western United States. Students travel on a school bus to national parks, monuments, forests, and places of historical interest and camp out (in tents or under the stars). I was a part of trip 25, which took place in the summer of 1996. A first for WFS was we took along a laptop computer and kept up a web site. That link will take you to the 1996 site, where there is a link to the current site.