Post Album Odds and Ends

Whew, it’s been a busy couple of weeks getting my new “Fractured Time” E.P. wrapped up and ready to sell.  Seems like that’s always the case the though, the very end of the process is where things get complicated.  It’s not even just finishing up the act of actually writing the music either, though that’s certainly the most important.

There’s quite a few things that need to happen before I can release a larger project like this:

– Am I happy with the artwork, and do I have it in all the sizes and resolutions I need for the various online outlets?
– Do I know which stores I want to sell it in, and can I coordinate the release for a specific day among all of them?
– What formats do all of the stores want the audio files in (some like Addictech are particular about the file-naming)?
– How much do I want to sell it for?
– Have I added all the images and info for the album on my website, both the Tracks page and the Blog?
– How am I going to handle giving away the Live 9 Project files for the album (free for people who buy it)?
– Is all the correct artwork and album info embedded in the AAC (or MP3) files?
– Who am I going to give free copies too, and do I need to worry about it getting pirated that way?
– How do I want to announce it on the social media sites, with different wording for each, or the same for all?
– Did I upload the album to Soundcloud, YouTube (working on this today), or Vimeo?

Those are just a few of the things I’m trying to coordinate and plan for in the last couple of weeks that I’m writing an album, I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.  But it goes even farther than that for me, because I also like to play live and DJ in addition to writing tracks in the studio.  So I’ve also got to make sure I have copies of all the new songs tagged and ‘gridded’ in my DJ software ready for my next gig.

There’s also the live set to think about.

Do I want to play any of these songs in my downtempo or uptempo live sets?  If so, then I need to go through the process of getting the right loops from all the songs to use in the Octatrack.  Those have to be set up properly, and all new drum parts have to be written for the Machinedrum.  Then I’ll remix it all to give it a fresh take for the live set (I hate live acts that sound EXACTLY like their studio songs).  Right when I am soooo sick of hearing the same songs over and over again, I have a lot more work doing just that while I get them ready to perform on stage.  🙂

Oh well, it’s all part of the process I guess, and at least most of it is fun.  just thought some people might be curious about what goes into a Tarekith album launch.  If you have any specific questions though, just put them in the comments below and I’ll answer them ASAP.

Thanks, and I hope many of you out there are enjoying the new music!

“Fractured Time” – New E.P.

While there are 4 ‘songs’ on this EP, it was written and intended to be played as a single piece of music.  It’s only 14 minutes long, don’t worry.  The start times of the different songs that make up this EP are:

00:00 – The Way In
04:00 – Involved
07:52 – The Endless Muse
10:38 – No Further

Here is the link to the complete album, as a single continuous 320kbps AAC: 

Higher resolution and lossless versions, as well as the individual tracks, are available from Bandcamp:

If you purchase the album, email a copy of your order to me and I’ll send you the Ableton Live 9 Project of the entire album for you to explore and mangle as you will.  Normal Creative Commons Licensing applies, see the bottom of this page for details before you release anything:

Project requires Live 9 to open, sorry to those with earlier versions!   220MB.

For the producers (and the curious) out there, you can read the full story of how this EP came to be further below:


The Story

This has been one of those projects that you love and hate at the same time.  It took me way longer than I expected, and by the end I was a millions miles away from where I thought I would be.  The early stages of this EP actually began with me wanting to create a new hard techno live set using just the Elektron Machinedrum.  It had been awhile since I had used just the Machinedrum for a live set, and I was feeling drawn to the simplicity of just working with one piece of gear for awhile.

Why a hard techno live set instead of my usual downtempo?  No idea, other than I had been going to a few festivals last summer, and that was the music I kept getting drawn to.

For the new live set I wanted to use the UW aspect of the Machinedrum as much as possible, so most of the sounds I prepared for it came from this techno DJ set I had been listening to for a few weeks in my car.  I didn’t so much sample individual sounds and specific noises as I did just short little micro bursts of sound to mess with later.  I was looking for textures and sounds with lots of harmonics I could filter later on.  With all 48 memory slots on the MD-UW filled, I was only using 700kb of memory, so tiny samples indeed.

Over the next few weeks I basically wrote 16 ‘songs’ on the Machinedrum, with the intention that this would be a live set I performed on the fly.  Working with so much focus on one piece of gear for so long is a very intense experience, and after a month or so I needed a break away from all things Elektron 🙂  So I packed up the Machinedrum and focused on DJing for awhile.

In a few weeks when I felt I was ready to dive back into the techno set, I sat down to give everything a listen with fresh ears.  Of course more than half of what I had written sounded like garbage now, so I began the process of trying to save as many of the songs as I could.  After a few days, I could tell that trying to do the whole set with only the Machinedrum was just not giving me the range of sounds I was looking for.  Not so much a fault of the MD, as it was due to me having a pool of very specific (and honestly too similar) samples for my core sounds.

Having spent weeks of very long days writing material, and now realizing only about half of it was worth saving, I once again decided to take a break and work on other projects while I thought about how to save all those hours of work.  When things just aren’t working for me, I’m notorious for deleting everything and starting over.  But in this case I really liked the material that WAS good, so I didn’t want to go that far yet.

Around this time, I ran into the plug-in “MIDI Guitar” from Jam Origin and things started to change.  The plug-in is basically a real-time audio to midi converter for guitar, which you can use standalone or in your DAW.  I was really enjoying using my guitar to play something like Omnisphere, so I thought it might be cool to create new loops to go over the Machinedrum material. I could use the Octatrack to play them back, so I’d still be using all hardware to perform the set.  It might not be a strictly techno set on just the Machinedrum anymore, but at least I was still using all this material I had written.  Good enough for me!

First I went back to the MD songs and deleted all but the 8 that I liked the best.  It was tough, but it just wasn’t worth the time or the effort at this point to try and save the others.  I’d tried that once and they still weren’t doing it for me, so away they went, problem solved.

Syncing the MD to Ableton Live is easy enough, so I was able to record 5-6 new loops for each of the remaining Machinedrum songs.  As I mentioned, I did all of this using my guitar to play Omnisphere, so all of the non-drum sounds were recorded that way.  Probably the most fun making music I’ve had in years, this MIDI Guitar software has changed the way I write music for the better I think.

I dove in and in just a few days managed to record all of the new audio material I needed for the Octatrack, roughly 48 new 4-bar audio loops.  I loaded these into the OT and did a rough mix with the Machinedrum sounds.  I also reordered all of the songs so that they flowed from start to finish better.  By this time, I was once again getting a little burned out on hearing the same sounds so much, so I took yet another multi-week break from the Elektrons to give my brain a break.  On bigger projects like this, I find it critical to take time away now and then to make sure I can come back to it now and then with a fresh perspective.  It keeps me from wasting weeks of time taking things too far, and helps me really edit out all the material that’s just not working in the larger context.

By this point I should have been expecting it, but once I listened to the material again a few weeks later I was left still feeling like some of it was just not that strong.  Once again I was forced to make the tough (but necessary) decision to get rid of the stuff that wasn’t working so I could focus on what was sounding like it had potential.  In this case, that meant deciding to go from an 8 song mini live set, to a 4 song studio EP.  Oh well, these things happen.

I spent a couple of weeks tweaking and remixing my new loops in the Octatrack, and then recorded everything back into Ableton Live to arrange.  My plan was to create the songs as 4 parts of one larger piece of music, which meant doing all 4 songs in the same project.  The Live 9 beta was just getting going, so I figured I would use this as a chance to put the new version through it’s paces.  Don’t try this at home.

It took me about 2-3 more weeks to arrange all the songs for the album, and finish all the fills and edits.  I had planned to add more parts with MIDI Guitar, but once I did my last pass of edits and fills, I realized it was fine the way it was.  I took another week to fine-tune the arrangement, and then did some last minute tweaking to the mixdown of all the songs.  I used only the built in effects from Live 9 for the mix, and they did the job perfectly, no complaints.

So there you have it, from an hour long techno live set to a 4 track E.P.

Vancouver Live Set now on Bandcamp!


Since I released this live set a few months ago, I’ve had quite a few people ask me if they could get a lossless version of it.  Since this is one of my favorite live sets anyway, I thought it would be nice put it up on Bandcamp so people could get it in any format they wanted.

This set was recreated from a performance I gave in Vancouver on August 8th, 2012 at Sequential Circus 11.  100% Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack, recorded live in one pass with no additional post processing, enjoy!

Chroma Caps Review



Noting too deep this time around, but I wanted to take a quick minute to review the new Chroma Caps replacement knobs I recently got for my Traktor S4 controller.  I had posted a couple pictures of it on Facebook and had a lot of people asking me about the new knobs.  I just assumed people know about these already.  🙂

So, as I recently talked about in an early blog post, I recently picked up another S4 controller from Native Instruments to use while DJing with Traktor.  Overall I’m pretty happy with the controller, but it always bugged me a little that they used black knobs on a  black background for the mixer and effects sections.  I looks cool in the daylight, but in a darker studio or on stage, it’s a little hard to see to be honest.  So, for awhile now I’ve been eyeing the Chroma Caps from as a way to make it easier to see the knobs on the controller in darker environments.

As luck would have it, right before I was getting ready to the knobs, they released even more colors for both knobs types, and the fader caps.   So I was able to choose from 11 different tones when planning out how I wanted to layout the S4 based on my custom mapping.


As mentioned, sells the replacements in three different styles:  a shorter and wider knob (the Fatty knob), a tall skinny one (the Super Knob) like you find on most controllers, and different fader caps.

All of these are covered in the same soft rubber coating regardless of the color (except for the glow in the dark fader caps, no knobs in these yet though).   The rubber is a little softer than the stock S4 knobs, but extremely grippy.  I wouldn’t worry at all about these becoming slippery, even in the hottest and sweatiest environments!  Overall they feel like they are very well made, definitely a better controller than the stock knobs and fader caps.


Putting the new knobs and fader caps on the S4 was a breeze, though getting some of the older ones off first required a bit more work.  Nothing a butter knife, some cardboard, and a bit of patience couldn’t fix though.  One word of caution, the knob shafts are made of plastic, so go slow and take your time when removing stubborn stock knobs.

I’d also like to take second to thank the staff at the DJ Tech Tools store as well.  I had made an error when I ordered my knobs the first time around, and they were quick to respond and eager to solve the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Definitely some nice guys.

And I should point out that the knobs aren’t just for Native Instruments gear.  On the DJTT store, they have a list of all different controllers that are known to use the same size knob.  Head over there for the most up to date list if you’re curious if these knobs will work on something you own.



Looks like the date for the DJ gig was pushed back one week, so it will be on February 6th now, starting at 6:00.  Join me as we celebrate the opening of the new Beer Authority in Seattle, which is the venue I’ve been running my Liquid Beats events at.  The new space is larger and better laid out for how popular this pub has become, so come on out for some great tunes and great beer.

Korg Monotron Duo & Delay


This year for Christmas my wife bought me the Korg Monotron Duo and Delay synths, and after a few days playing with them, I figured I would do a quick review.  I’ve had my eye on these for awhile, ever since I saw the review done on last year.  I wasn’t really expecting serious music making tools, but for roughly $40 each on sale, I figured they’d be fun to mess around with occasionally.

I ended up just running the Duo directly into the Delay, since that seemed to really open up the possibilities of what kinds of sounds I could make.  I won’t go into a blow by blow of the specs and connections, that info is easy enough to find elsewhere (and on something so simple like these, there’s not much to talk about anyway).  Instead I figured I would just list some of the thoughts I’ve had now that I’ve had a chance to explore the sonic possibilities I could achieve with these little boxes:

– They’re definitely nice and small, easily something you could stick in your pocket along with some headphones.  That said, not sure how much fun I’d have sitting in a park just playing with the Duo on it’s own.  There’s some neat timbres it can do, but even with the option to set the keyboard strip to 4 different scales, it’s really not a “playable” synth in terms of melodies and the like.

– Both units have a decent amount of background hiss on the outputs, these are not nice and pristine sounding synths.  Turn the feedback up past 11 o’clock and the Delay unit starts to create it’s own hiss feedback loop even.  🙂  Still, when you start playing with them, it’s really not too noticeable.

– The units are so small and light, that I found it hard to find something to set them on so they would stay put while I manipulated them.  Sure I could pick them up, but sometimes I wanted to tweak both at the same time and they would tend to slide around on my desk easily.

– Because there’s not any sort of fixed scales on the Delay synth, trying to play the keyboard for anything other than swoopy pitchy bends is impractical.  And since the only LFO onboard is hardwired to OSC pitch anyway, the Delay unit is largely ideal more for FX sounds and textures.  While it can’t do melodies all that well, I still found this Monotron to be the more playable (and fun) of the two.

– These are analog units, and thus succeptible to temperature fluctuations.  I noticed that patches I made on the Duo would sound different if I powered it off for awhile, and gradually sound more like I remembered after being left on for a little awhile.  That said, it was very rare I could completely recall a patch 100% after power down, it often sounded just a tiny bit different.


For me the Monotrons really came into their own for making these dense textures and noise-scapes, not so much for your typical synth sounds.  I’d crank the delay feedback up, and use the keyboards of both units to add new sounds and colors into these soundscapes.  The results often were noisy and harsh, they break up pretty quickly once the delay starts feedback on itself.

But it’s pretty fun none the less, and I’ve found myself spending an hour or more just playing around with these little guys and enjoying the tweaking they offered for such few controls.  If I had to recommend one over the other I’d say the Delay is the more versatile and fun to mess with it.  But combined, the two make a good combo and compliment each other nicely.

So while they might not be the first choice for something you would use for repeatable and easy to recall sounds (no patch memory at all), they are great fun for just geeking out in the studio and getting hands on with some analog sounds.  Here’s a short recording I made while doing one of these tweak sessions last night, just to give you a taste of some the overall sounds it can do.  Careful, it’s pretty loud too!


Well, the end of the year is almost here, but I’m not done with the blog yet .  Check in next time as I talk about how the Traktor S4 has once again become my main DJ tool of choice despite some of my reservations a couple years ago when it was first released.  Until then!

Tarekith Interview – December 2012

Hey everyone, earlier this month I gave a 30 minute interview to one of my mixdown clients who’s starting his own blog.  We talk about  a lot of different topics, from playing live, to mastering, moving across the country, plus I give a bunch of production tips.  Check it out and let me know what you think:

Oops, and sorry for the audio glitches in a few spots, Skype was acting up that day.  🙂


I also wanted to thank everyone for their kind words about my new album “Epoch” that got released last week.   I wanted to apologise to those of you who tried to buy the FLAC or WAV file versions from Addictech and were told it was Out Of Stock.  That issue has been resolved now, and you can also grab those file formats from the new Bandcamp page I just added too (HINT: it’s only $7 for any format there).  Here’s the easiest places to find the album, click the name for the links:



QuNexus – Hands On

Earlier today I had the chance to meet the local Keith McMillen representative, and get an early preview of their new QuNexus controller.  I should stress that the unit I got to play with was an early prototype, and thus may not be identical to the production units.  It certainly felt like real product though, and has the same feel and response as the QuNeo controller they already produce.

Like the QuNeo before it, McMillen is using Kickstarter to raise funds for the productions of these units, and while there are currently 7 days left until the project funding ends, they have already met their goal.  You can sign up to be part of the Kickstarter funding and get one of the very first production units (at a nice discount) here:

As I mentioned, the unit I saw was only a production prototype, but it felt a lot like the QuNeo.  The case is nice and thin, about the same thickness as the QuNeo, and the ‘keys’ on the controller are raised roughly 1/8 of an inch or so above the casing to make them easy to play.  While the case does have the same flex to it as the  QuNeo, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.  Quite the opposite in fact, the flexing almost makes it feel like it would stand up to more abuse than if it was made out of a rigid hard plastic.  I definitely would have no worries just tossing this into my laptop bag night after night after a gig.

The keys themselves are sort of a softer rubber like we’ve come to expect on drum pad controllers like Maschine or the Trigger Finger.  They have a nice solid feel and bounce to them when you play them like drum triggers, but are sensitive enough to velocity variations that they actually are quite responsive for playing keyboard parts too. And you can tailor the velocity to your playing with the included software editor if you need to.

To the left of the keys there are function buttons that let you bank octave up and down, set the keys to transmit note, pressure, or note and pressure data as you need.  While it doesn’t have a mod or pitch wheel per se, there is a modulation button that can serve the same duty.  The longer and harder you press it down, the more pitchbend you get, and the faster it comes on.  This functionality was still being worked on with the prototype, so I can’t comment on how it really worked in practice.

There’s also a cool function where rolling or pushing your finger forward on a key after you press it can send controller data (McMillen refers to this as Tilt).  So for example, you could press a key to trigger a note, then slide your finger forward to alter the cutoff frequency.  All while still having pressure to assign to another parameter.  Very nifty, and offers the chance for some really dynamic and expressive playing depending on how and what you map this extra level of control to.

In addition to sending MIDI data, the QuNexus can also transmit and receive CV and Gate information for controlling your analog gear.  Unfortunately I couldn’t try this aspect, so I can’t comment on that functionality. But it should be very welcome considering the resurgence of analog gear we’re seeing lately.
While there’s certainly no shortage of small and cheap portable controllers on the market now, the one thing that I really enjoyed about the QuNexus is just how responsive the keyboard felt considering the keys don’t have your typical travel mechanisms.  Unlike some of the small keyboard controllers from Korg or Akai, the QuNexus actually feels like something you can use to play very expressive pieces with.  The velocity response was very predictable and even, and having the option to use the keys as further controllers via the pressure and tilt options really opens up a lot of expression possibilities.  And most importantly, it doesn’t feel cheap.

One of the things I’m most excited to use the QuNexus for is playing iPad synths, which is perfect since it can be powered by an iPad using the Camera Connection Kit.  Not only does it feel like a lot more robust of a controller than the alternatives in this size, I won’t have to worry about breaking off one of the mini-keys the other controllers use while transporting it in a backpack on my bike.  Hoping to get my hands on one of the early production units to test this out, but I’ll have to wait for now just like everyone else unfortunately.  🙁

If you’re interested already, you only have 7 DAYS LEFT to help fund the Kickstarter project via the link above.  Doing so will get you a QuNexus for only $150, which is $49 cheaper than what the eventual street price of $199 will likely be. If you’re in the Seattle area and would like a one on one demo of the QuNexus, just let me know and I’ll get you the contact info of their local rep who would be happy to help you out.

Finally, Create Digital Music has a good interview with Keith McMillen on the specifics of the QuNexus development and using Kickstarter for a projects like this, definitely worth a read if you want to find out more about what went into starting this project.

I’ll post more info on this once I get my hands on my very own to spend more time putting it through it’s paces.  Until then, ask any questions you have and I’ll do my best to get the answers for you, thanks!


(psst, new Tarekith album comes out Friday too)

Live at Sequential Circus 11

This set was recorded after the fact, because the original recordings of the sets at Sequential Circus 11 were later discovered to be damaged, and unuseable for the podcast they run.  I have used the same set list, and tried to keep the same vibe as the set I performed that night in Vancouver, August 18th, 2012.

Performed using an Elektron Octatrack and Machinedrum.


In other news, my next gig will be sometime around December 4rd.  The local pub I run my Liquid Beats night at is moving to a bigger location next door, and I’ve been asked to DJ the grand re-opening.  The exact date will depend on how long the move takes, but I’ll be sure to post about here and on Facebook/Twitter once I find out for sure.  Should be fun night!

Live at Chillography 5 Recording

Well, it took me awhile to get the recording prepped in order to post this online, but I finally have a copy of the live set I performed at Chillography 5 back on August 4th here in Seattle.  This was all done live using an Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack, straight into the house mixer.  Good example of my more downtempo and midtempo live set.  Only a few mistakes in this one as it was scorching hot and the sun shining right on my gear made it hard to see somethings, doh!  🙂


Hopefully I can have a copy of my more uptempo set from Vancouver posted soon as well, until then, enjoy!



The Dividing Line

This past weekend I was visiting New York for a family wedding, and we were staying on a small island near the coast.  Now, if you’re in the US, you probably heard about the storms that produced two tornados there, and we were staying just 20 miles away from where that occurred.  Luckily, none of the really bad weather reached us, but it did make for some huge ocean swells and dangerous riptide warnings right by where we were staying.

Being the kind of person who likes “extreme sports” and pushing myself in outdoor activities, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to go play in the waves.  A few other people were equally into surfing and outdoor adventure, so there were about 4-5 of us who spent a lot of time swimming out past the break, and then dodging the massive waves that would pound you into the sand on the way back in if you didn’t get it right.  All while fighting this massive riptide that was doing everything possible to make getting back to shore almost impossible.

Scary, but fun none the less.

The interesting thing was that other people at the wedding party saw how much fun we were having, and started to feel that urge to come join us despite not having any experience in these kind of conditions and being able to clearly see how dangerous this was.  A few even went so far as to walk in knee deep, but could quickly tell the current and force of the crashing waves (10-12 feet) was serious and that this wasn’t going to be something to take lightly.

They hit what I like to call “the dividing line”.

That point where enthusiasm and desire confront cold hard reality, and gives you a moment of pause.

One of the things that struck me about this, was how many times I’ve seen (and experienced) something similar when it comes to music.  Let’s face it, we all get into making and performing music with high dreams and goals.  We see the musician on stage, the artist in the studio, or the DJ rocking a crowd and aspire to achieve similar success.

So we put in the work, and eventually, sometimes years later, we’re confronted by a situation where we hit the dividing line.  It could be getting offered your first big gig, or perhaps the chance to score a short film.  Maybe it’s the chance to work with a famous musician you have always looked up to, or even quitting your day job to make music full time.  It’s a situation you’ve dreamed about for years, usually because it looks like fun and the chance to do something you’ve always been jealous that other’s were able to do.

But then you pause, and realize just how big a leap that is, you are more conscious of the ramifications of this one crucial decision that you have to make.  It’s easy to tell other people what your dreams are, and how you’d jump head first if only you were given the chance.  But when it comes time to actually put your money where your mouth is, things become much different.

Some people will push through this moment and take that chance, others will back down and let it pass them by.  And here’s the thing, sometimes backing down really is the best choice, just like how some of the people I was with decided against swimming in rough and dangerous waters.  They knew it was beyond their ability that day, so they wisely decided to stay on shore knowing the ceonsequences for making a mistake were pretty serious.

I’ve long said in my articles and this blog that great progress in life comes with great risk, that the best achievements come when you find yourself in a situation where you’re in over your head and manage to struggle through anyway.  But the flip side is also true, sometimes taking a chance before you’re ready can do more harm than good too.  When you’re working with other people and you’re unable to deliver like you said you would, it reflects poorly on you, and people don’t forget that.

Taking a gig you knew you weren’t ready for, then completely blowing it on stage will most likely mean you won’t get booked there again.  Or worse, any other place in your town if word gets out.  Delaying the release of a film because you couldn’t get the score done in time, causing a well-known artist to miss their album release date, or other similar situations can have long term impacts on your dreams and goals.

It’s a fine line to walk, being confident enough to accept a difficult challenge, and being pragmatic enough to know that perhaps this is not your time yet.  I think determining your action depends a lot on how honest you can be with yourself about your abilities, and how much of a risk-taker you are.  But regardless of your experience and self-confidence, the one thing everyone can do it continue to strive to improve your skills.  You need to be constantly working to improve your abilities so that when these situations come up, you’re even better equipped to make that choice and push through the dividing line.

Keeping the right mental attitude is key as well.  It’s easy to always let yourself feel overwhelmed, or to underestimate your skill level.  Staying positive not only makes the entire process just plain more enjoyable, but it helps you more honestly assess if you’re ready or not for the challenge.  And most importantly, it keeps you focused on your dreams in those situations where perhaps it’s just too early still for you to make that jump.

I remember back in 1999 I was offered the chance to work on some music for a TV commercial with a very well known production house in Chicago at the time (Libman Music).  I went to the studio and helped them come up with some more modern sounding electronic music for the spot over the course of a weekend.  At the end of the weekend, they more or less told me that they were interested in having me work there doing similar type of work, and that I could even set up my own room in the studio.

But…. I knew I really wasn’t ready for that yet.  It was incredibly cool being in this full blown studio, I had had a lot of fun, and I was flattered and tempted to take the offer.  But deep down I knew that I just didn’t have the skills yet to work at the pace a job like that would demand, so ultimately I passed on the offer.

Here’s the thing though.  Instead of being depressed that I missed a good opportunity, I was excited that it had even been offered in the first place.  It was motivating, I redoubled my efforts to learn as much as I could about audio production so I’d be ready if the chance ever came again.  For me, stepping back from the dividing line wasn’t a feeling of defeat, it was a way to measure my progress and push myself to achieve even more.

So I think it’s important to remember that sometimes turning down an opportunity you’re not ready for is not alway a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s the smartest option, and the one that will push you the most to achieve your dreams in the long run.  The key is to turn these experiences into something positive, to make them one more small step along the path towards your ultimate goal.  They ultimately push us forward, not hold us back.