August 6, 2013

And The Baby Jesus Wept...

by Chris Randall

Okay, no apologies for the lack of posting. I told you in the last post but one that we had bought a house, and that, coupled with some Big News coming on the Audio Damage front in a short while, is currently demanding about 138% of my waking moments.

So the main reasons for this particular post are two-fold. First, I would like to get that neckbeard in the YouTube video screengrab below the fold, because I'm tired of seeing it. (Mission accomplished.) And second, I need to vent.

My wife has often told me, in our nearly 19 years of marriage, that if something's worth doing it is worth doing right. That has never been more apparent to me than now. While my discovery isn't specifically (or, well, even generally) music-related, the same precepts apply, as it turns out. I have occasionally taken on remix and production projects. It isn't something I terribly enjoy, and usually the benefactors of my tender ministrations don't enjoy it either. The reason for this is that if something is done half-assed or stupidly, I have a knack for letting the person that did it know. Come to find out, people don't really like being called stupid. Go figure.

But this house... it was built in 1967, and was "builder-grade" (which is Real-Estate language for "the bare minimum") for its time. In the 46 years between when it was built and when I acquired it, it had two owners. In that time, both owners did various upgrades and repairs. And in EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE that the opportunity presented itself, they took the path of least resistance. This has built up in four and a half decades to a rather ludicrous collection of half-assed bailing-wire-and-band-aids fixes and upgrades. The most egregious example is the $3000 worth of new granite countertops laid over the original particle board kitchen cabinetry. Today I discovered a pre-hung door frame that was held in place solely by the trim. (I was removing the trim prior to painting the room, and the door and frame literally fell out of the wall.) It goes on and on.

I fully expected this, and was aware of most of the problem "fixes" prior to purchasing the house. We got it for an excellent price, and it is in a good neighborhood; our fixes prior to moving in (which mostly consist of undoing the previous owners' errors and making all the doorknobs match) will increase its value by several tens of thousands of dollars, lubricated almost entirely by sweat. In short, I got what I paid for and will make a lot of money off this house; we wanted a mid-century modern Atomic Ranch that we could bring back to a modernized version of its original state, and build a ton of equity in the process, and for that particular want, we couldn't have done better.

However, let this be a lesson: if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. This house is like the difference between using a pre-made drum loop someone ginned up (no offense, Wade and Huggy; much love!!!), and taking the time to custom record and synthesize your drum sounds, with which you make a well-produced and nicely grooving rhythm part. Sure, the loop will work. But 46 years down the road, don't you wish somebody knew you took the time to do it right?


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Aug.09.2013 @ 8:35 AM
Chris Randall

Seriously, no, that's not allowed here. Next stop: saying FL Studio ain't that bad.


Aug.09.2013 @ 9:11 AM
I've moved through three houses and two apartments in the last fifteen years. I have yet to be in one where things were done right. The house I'm in right now has great bones. Most of the load bearing parts are steel i-beams most likely produced right here in Pittsburgh long before the collapse of the industry. Unfortunately everything else on top of those beams was the shoddiest construction possible. When we moved in, we had an electrician redo the most egregious things and that part of the house is flowing like a well regulated EPS grid should be. Everything else, I'm trying to hold together with newer bailing twine and duct tape than was here before me. Poverty limits some of the things that I can do. Pulling up carpet and paint, and a bit of landscaping are about all that I can really pull off at the moment.

I've been a homeowner for a long time, and I think that it's the way to go in most places. Average rent for a comparable place in PGH were two to three times what a decent mortgage would be even before the economy tanked in '08. Now there are even better deals if you are willing to live in an area of town that they aren't actively gentrifying. But it's also tough to know that everything rides on your shoulders.

We are strongly considering moving back to the first house that we lived in when we moved from OKC. But this time we want to take the move slow and do the sweat work that we have never had the time to do in a move. I want to live in at least one place that is set up the way that I want it to be and is conducive to our lifestyle. That house is a hundred year old Victorian with good bones as well. If we take our time we can do it right and with the little money that we have. It just won't be done anytime soon. I'll be right there with you in 2016, Chris!


Aug.09.2013 @ 9:46 AM
D' MacKinnon
Welcome to the time/money sink of homeownership! I have a continual backlog of repairs/upgrades that I'm working on when I have free time (which I don't think I've had for the past few years at all). Our next major project will be gutting the kitchen. New flooring, new cabinets and counter-tops, the works. It will be beautiful when it's done and closer to our vision of what we want our home to be but damn if I'm not looking forward to it.

Aug.09.2013 @ 10:00 AM
>I want to live in at least one place that is set up the way that I want it to be and is conducive to our lifestyle.

So sad to read, chasing the dream. It's easy to see when someone else is an addict, but hard to see in yourself.

Saltillo tile; I like it. But this is the next step of home ownership; all the things you've done to fix up the house, the things that you love and have poured money and sweat into, someone will hate will make it harder to sell your house. So then you start thinking of every improvement in terms of balancing what you really want vs the generic crap that helps houses sell and whether you're just going to have to redo it when the time comes.

Aug.09.2013 @ 12:08 PM
God, did I just walk into a fuckin' Home Depot or what? Nothing I hate more than "home renovation"... except talkin' about "home renovation". About as exciting as watching paint dry (hey... that's pretty good! :D ). I can't believe how much of America... and apparently people in general... get into this shit. It's almost like golf or religion or something. I guess it's innately normal to be so concerned and obsessed over one's abode... to most animals. And once again... I'm the "loner" in the room and must not be "normal". So, before you tell me as much... I'll get out now. Just thought I'd throw that out there for all you home renovating enthusiasts. ;D

Aug.09.2013 @ 12:19 PM
At the risk of being teased like some pre-pubescent teen with bad acne, and I'm not intending to hijack this thread, I wonder Chris if you'd be up for discussing the DAWs we choose sometime in the future. I know most here are probably Abelton, Reason, Logic, or Pro Tools, and sometimes I wonder if I should be converted.

I am afraid I am "one of those" FL Studio users, mostly because it is what I was exposed to first and what I was brought up on, so to speak. Don't worry, I'm not interested in a fanboy discussion in the slightest, but some actually pros/cons comparisons. I actually hate how FL handles midi (try recording the midi output of something like Axon, for example, without some virtual midi port like Loop Midi... Grr).

But like I said, not trying to hijack. Just a post idea for the future.

More on topic: super congrats on the new house. Obviously you are a man who is willing and able to get his hands a bit dirty. I wish. Here in my oil-soaked Albertan neck of the woods it is just not cost effective for a young couple to buy an older home. Pre-fab homes have as much character as a soggy taco, but are often the only affordable option. And yes, every possible corner seems to be cut.

Aug.10.2013 @ 1:01 PM
@wgparham: I'm tripping out about the steel I-beams. It makes sense to use those in construction, but I've never seen them used in the tree-laden PNW. Then again, I'm more of a "dweller" and less a "builder" when it comes to houses. I want to build a shed for my office in the yard of the new house, but a 10x12 shed is obviously a different beast than a full-on house.

Aug.10.2013 @ 9:03 PM
Chris Randall
@un.ku: Conversations like that rapidly turn in to a religious war. I personally could give a shit. Whatever works. My current leanings are Studio One 2 for "real" music, and Live for electro-shit, but I'll use whatever's handy. I won't, however, use FL Studio ever. I'm sure it's fine for some people, but fuck if I know who those people are. They're only one step away from putting a new search bar in your browser on install at this point.

@wgparham: The EPS grid in this house, well, let's just say that I spend a lot of time in the Jeffries tubes.

@seancostello: I strongly recommend either 8 x 12 or 12 x 16 for your "shed." You'll rapidly see why.


Aug.10.2013 @ 10:08 PM
Fair enough, Chris. I'm not the religious type, but consider the matter dropped.

Aug.11.2013 @ 7:50 AM
My first house (partially built 1913) had parts of the electrical done by an aircraft mechanic. This was the original owners son - who grew up, lived and retired in that house. It was his life, his pride and his heritage - and I was proud to honor his request to continue to fly the flag out front, and tend his pianese flowers.

Built like a tank... no joke - it had 3 1/2" of solid flooring (2 layers of shiplap,, osb, hardwood, more hardwood). Sawing for new heating vents was eye opening and a pita. Had raw 2x4 studs... so actually 2" x 4" - hard as frak.

"Best" find was an old wind-up alarm clock in the corner of the pantry. With live wires soldered to the arms of the clock (dont reach for the pickles without looking - yeesh!) These contacted at 4am to 'turn on' the lights and block heater for the shed and car in the back.

Still... it worked and provided for generations, with what they had.

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