Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
My cousin, myself, and another fellow (should I call him ''friend''? an e-friend, I guess -- never met him in person...) have been e-mailing back and forth about songwriting, perfect pitch, and related. I mentioned that John Entwhistle (bassist for The Who) said he used to have perfect pitch -- but The Who used to tune up using a broken harmonica -- and after a few years of this, he lost his pitch.
Which made me realize: that's pretty obscure stuff. (In ascending order of obscurity: the name of the bassist for The Who; he had perfect pitch; they used to tune to a harmonica; the dodgy harmonica caused him to lose his perfect pitch.)
As I think I've blogged about before, I have a few pockets of knowledge that are deeper than what most people know. Not as deep as those who specialize in one of those areas -- but I don't think there's too many people around who have the combination of knowledge that I do.
Roughly on a scale of -5 to +5, with "0" being the baseline for what normal males (let's keep this gendered) know about, I'm...
+3 on recording techniques (well, maybe +3 -- I'm out of practice),
+3 on the perspectives of famous and semi-famous pop/rock songwriters,
+3.5 on music instruments and gear (someone who plays a specific instrument would know more about that instrument -- but I have a pretty broad range of awareness of classical, rock, and folk instruments),
+3 on woodworking with hand tools,
+1 on computer stuff,
+2 on awareness of Linux stuff,
+4 on martial arts (not the **doing**, necessarily, but the awareness of different styles, and a little bit on their histories/inter-connectedness),
+3 on super heroes (although I'm out of touch compared to fifteen years ago),
+4 on Sociology and Criminology (Upgraded from "+3" -- I'd been basing this relative to my co-workers, rather than the general populace)
+4 on quantitative (i.e., statistical) research methods (Again, upgraded from "+3" -- most people don't even **think** about this stuff...)
So, I'm not a world-class expert (i.e., "+5") on any one thing. But I have all these weird pockets of knowledge that pop up. Which, not surprisingly, approximately correspond with the amount of bookshelf space taken up by that field.
Conversely, I'm probably -4 for sports, -4 for makes and models of cars, -2 for politics, and -3 for history. Compared to the typical male of my age.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Neither names nor dates
I think everyone has something (or, several things) that they're good at -- and thing(s) that they're pretty bad at.
I lack a strong sense of direction -- unlike my dad and my brother. However, I have a pretty good spacial ability. So, inside a building, I can visualize where the other parts are. But I can't say where north is. And even for our house, I have to visualize it on a map to know where the points of the compass are.
I also have an abnormally (it seems!) poor ability to remember names and dates. I don't know my parents' birthdays, except for "April 20-something", and I don't know the birth years of my parents, or children!
Nor do I know the middle names of my two boys -- made the more difficult by their appearing at the same time (twins!), and their having **two** middle names each. Thus, I can list the four middle names -- just not which two go with which boy, nor their order within each boy. I even wrote the boys' full names down on a piece of paper and posted it near my computer at work, where I looked at it every morning when I sat down. Didn't help.
Also, when I teach, I have to bring a camera, pass out crayons for people to write their names, and take ''mug shots'' of my students. Then I cut the photos into strips, and use them as flash cards. By exerting a lot of effort, I can learn everyone's name in two to three weeks -- but then I've forgotten most of them by the start of the new term. Whereas my wife, in contrast, simply has to ask people their names as they ask questions in class, and has everyone learned by week two or so.
This lack of facility with names, dates, and general ''brute force'' memorization prevented me from being a History major, being an actor (I love improv, but JUST... CAN'T... MEMORIZE...!!!), or going in to politics (where you need to be able to schmooze and remember people's names). Curiously, I **do** remember things **about** people (e.g. used to be a plumber; has a pet cat who's been ill) -- just not their label (i.e., their name).
This also means that (unlike my dad, and my brother) I am STINK-o at foreign languages -- because, at least at the introductory level, learning a foreign language is all about memorization (vocabularly and verb conjugation).
Conversely, I have a few enhanced abilities. I'm able to write pretty good songs -- apparently most people can't do that. And I'm able to come up with unexpected, creatively off-the wall ideas within a broad range of fields (sociological theory; woodworking; music) -- ideas that actually work.
I think I would've made a pretty good advertising agency person: coming up with creative, catchy ad campaigns and catchphrases -- kinda like this.
Labels: my traits
Thursday, May 27, 2010
To become a better drummer
Last night I did two things towards becoming a competent drummer.
After dinner, the boys had expressed interest in playing my drums, so I unearthed them, and I played a bit, as well. I noticed that within just a few minutes, my kick drum leg started seizing up, due to the busy kick drum patterns I was playing.
So, later that night I put a wooden box under my desk, draped it with an old t-shirt (folded over a few times) for dampening, and put my spare kick drum pedal in front of it. My hope is that I'll use it in an absent-minded manner while checking e-mail, etc. I tried it out, and yep -- seems to work. Build up my kick drum endurance.
The second thing I did was finish off a small project that's been in the works for about a month. I had a green (of course!) Pringles can that houses my various drum sticks. However, it keeps falling over on the carpet. So, I grabbed a square-ish piece of wood (dunno where it came from), punched a hole in the bottom of the Pringles can, and...
Seems to work: holds all my drumsticks; and it doesn't fall over.
It's a funny shaped piece of wood. I briefly considered squaring it up -- or at least cutting off the angled end. But I liked the quirky nature of it.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Paging Captain Crash
I'm looking for Kevin Adams, drummer for the defunct band Quiet Storm. Or, Captain Crash Adams, of the band Quiet Storm.
I've put up this blog post, just in case he ever Googles his name.
Kev -- if you see this, plz post something in the ''Comments'' section, with an e-mail address or something so I can contact you.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A few weeks ago I blogged about coming up with most of a song on April 27th. I'm pleased to report that I accidentally came up with another song this morning (May 25th), on the way to the bank.
I have all the lyrics pretty much finalized, and a pretty good idea as to the instrumentation. Still working on the specifics of the vocal melody, though: it changes every time I sing it -- which is fine for jazz, but not so good for pop/rock.
If I maintain this trajectory, I'll have an album's worth of songs (good songs!) within a year. :)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Spiral slide in your home
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Another Aussie difference
I just realized today (although maybe I've thought of it before, and simply forgotten), that Australian homes don't usually have doorbells.
At least, not in Brisbane (maybe they do elsewhere). Our house (built just a few years ago) doesn't have one. Neither does my wife's sister's (built about a year ago), her brother's (built maybe ten years ago), nor her parents (about 35 years go). Nor her grandmother's (70 years ago?).
No door knockers, neither (with maybe the except of the parents).
Maybe people just had the windows open all the time, so you just walk up to the screen door and holler.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Old is relative
I just realized that --at forty-something years of age -- ''65'' doesn't seem ''old''. It's ''upper middle-aged'', to me.
It's all perspective. :)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Moving in versus moving out
It's interesting to me that you can tell at a glance whether someone is moving in to a place, or moving out.
My folks are visiting in a few days, so we’re trying to vacate out old home office to give them somewhere to sleep. The computers, desks, and filing cabinets are all going off to another room -- the new home office.
I think we perceive whether a room in getting packed up, or moved in to, by what’s still there: when moving in, people start with the furniture; then set up the larger fixtures (computers, lamps); and finally unpack the small stuff. The contents of half-emptied boxes will look fairly compact. The room itself lacks miscellania.
In contrast, when moving out, a lot of the big stuff (furniture) and medium-sized stuff (computers) will have gone. So you end up with a lot of miscellaneous and unsorted cruft: coathangers, scraps of paper, shoeboxes of pens and pencils.
I’ll let you take a guess as to which end of the process these photos represent.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Great rendition of a good song
If one can have a favorite YouTube video, I believe this is mine.
I think the song is "Get Over You". Also, love his Northern English (??? - Irish?) accent.
This guy has done other ones, by himself and friends. But this one -- and ''Can't Stop the Rock'' -- are my two faves.
Actually: sure! Here's ''Can't Stop the Rock'':
The quacking ducks are a nice touch.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Two versions one song
As I mentioned a few days ago, my cousin did a cover version of one of my songs -- I'm flattered!
He's just posted my original version alongside his, on his webpage. I suggest you listen to my version (the original!) first (the bottom one), and then his version (the cover version) second (the top one). Both are streaming audio.
The differences between our two versions intrigue me. I think my cousin (nilSonance) is more of an oil painter, whereas I'm more of a cartoonist. In general, his songs are more intricate, whereas mine are looser (and more fun or less serious).
Of course, I like 'em both. :)
Monday, May 17, 2010
Naming the car
Yesterday I drove the truck (Land Rover Discovery) for the first time. Although it's much larger than the car we traded in for it, I adjusted fairly quickly -- probably because back in my twenties I spent a few years driving a delivery truck.
We're working on finding a good name for it. I've been calling it “the truck”, but my wife and my daughter want to call it “the big red car” -- partly due to The Wiggles song, and partly because the car we traded in was “the big white car” (to distinguish it from our little white car).
We'll gravitate towards something: you can't really "force" a nickname -- it sticks, or it doesn't.
Time will tell.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Cognitive bias song
Although I tell people that I have a minor in Psychology, that's technically untrue: I had to leave college after two and a half years (ran out of money), about two courses shy of the minor. And when I returned (after two years of working one and a half jobs, plus being in a band with my cousin and my roommate), the school I went to didn't have ''majors'' and ''minors'', as all of the courses were these funky inter-disciplinary things.
But one of the courses I did -- which was two quarters long -- **did** have a psych. component. So I have the substance of a Psych minor -- just not the credential.
So, when I received the link to this YouTube video, sent to me by Old Roommate, I recognized its genius. :) It's a high school Psychology teacher who wrote a little song about cognitive bias. Complete with scrolling lyrics.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Daughter likes my music
My guitar cousin has ''covered'' one of my songs (''Don't Bare My Leaves'') -- go here to stream it. Once I figure out how to FTP my audio files to him, he'll host and/or post a copy of my original version, and I'll link to it.
I played my cousin's version, and the original, and my daughter liked both -- to the extent that she played them several times on my laptop. That's flattering. :)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Still have American mindset
I've lived in Australia for eight years -- but lived in the U.S. for thirty years before that. So apparently, sometimes I still think like an American.
Yesterday we received someone else's letter in our mailbox: we're 845, but the letter was for 745.
''Just the next block'', I thought. ''I'll pop out and deliver it.'' Although we're semi-rural, I figured it would just be the next block over -- even thought ''the next block'' would be several houses along. A quick little walk.
I got about three houses down before I remembered that I had it wrong. Our house is at the far end of a fairly long road: 5 kilometers (about 3 miles). And it's not numbered like the American system, where every block = 100 (e.g., the 700 block, 800 block, 900 block). Instead, I'd be walking seven-eighths of 5km -- round-trip!
Two and a half miles -- each way! -- is hardly ''a quick little walk''. I think I'll use the car.
Addendum (5/12/10): Duh! Actualy 1/8 of 5km, NOT 7/8! So, 3/8 of a mile, or 5/8 of a kilometer each way; 3/4 of a mile (about 1 1/2 kilometer) if going round trip. Not **that** bad. But still more than just "two houses down".
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I need to ask Santa for one
Monday, May 10, 2010
Two about The Girl
Sunday -- yesterday -- was our usual library day. Here's two things I noticed about my daughter.
1) She called the hands of the clock “handles”. Makes sense – they’re shaped more like handles than like hands.
2) On our way out, the library guy had gave each of the kids a sticker on the back of the hand. However, by the time we got out to the hall, B1 had lost his, and was clearly sad about it. The Girl (unbidded) peeled hers off the back of her hand and put it on his -- which was **very** kind of her. (I was proud.)
I logged both of these in the ''developmental'' notes I keep on each of the kids (e.g. language development, social awareness, motor coordination, etc.)
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Happy Mothers Day
Birders -- people who bird-watch -- are respected. So are butterfly collectors. For some reason, those who pursue moths don't enjoy the same respect.
So, I'm glad that once a year, society takes time to acknowledge mothers everywhere. Moths rule!!!
Saturday, May 08, 2010
How to make a nice cup of tea
Friday, May 07, 2010
Need it like a hole in my ear
Parked the car in the driveway, after bringing The Girl home from school, and noticed one of my wife's earrings in the drink holder.
I used to wear an earring in my left ear, but kept forgetting to take it out for my Judo class (about 2001?), and finally just stopped wearing it. Wondered if the hole was still open.
(Photo by The Girl [i.e. my daughter].)
Put it in without using a mirror -- just by feel. Haven't worn an earring in probably five years. Will probably be another five years before I do it again.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Custom bathroom door
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Last night, Guitar Cousin e-mailed me to say that he was recording a cover version of one of my songs, and could I edit his attempt at the lyrics. I did a filename search on my hard drive, and couldn't find the lyrics (must be on my Mac Classic -- in a box since about 1998...), but **did** find the *.mp3 file. Played it to refresh my memory of the lyrics.
Played that song for my daughter, plus a few others of mine from that folder. She seemed impressed that I’d written songs, and asked who the other people playing were; I tried to explain the concept of multi-tracking (i.e., record one instrument, then play it back while recording another instrument).
Then she asked if **she** could make some songs; I said that she was free to **write** some songs, but that we couldn’t record them, as it would be several months before I had my recording gear set up. Her response was, “No fair. I like writing songs **better**!” (i.e., better than you do). I replied that it was possible – but unlikely.
I also pointed out that the key to writing songs is to come up with music that goes with the words, and then to remember how the music goes the next time you sing the words.
She's taking little kid piano lessons ("Hot Cross Buns", etc.): we'll see if she actually starts writing any songs.
Would be cool if she did.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Three unconnected things:
1. Sat, May 1: The girl can dribble a basketball-sized ball twenty times in a row with her left hand, and also twenty times with her left. She could do more, but after twenty she catches the ball. I don't know if this is average for a 5 1/2 year old's development, or advanced -- but **I'm** impressed. Maybe she can be a professional basketball player, and support us in our dotage.
2. Sunday, May 2: On the way home from church, The Girl and I stopped off at a garage sale/moving sale. The guy was about my parents' age (60s?), and used to do woodworking. I bought a wooden drawer, a bunch of wheels and castors, and several cans of spray paint, wood stain, varnish, and etc. Sticker price probably added up to $30; he sold it to me for ten bucks. Also, he has a **way** sturdy old woodturning lathe (looked 1950s), and a case (rack?) of lathe tools. No price on the lathe tools, but he had $1,700 (IIRC) on the lathe.
We talked about woodworking a bit (he stopped doing woodturning because of his back; I told him I'd done a little woodturning with my grandpa -- not a lot, but enough to know I liked it, and had the ability to do it). I told him that if he ended up not selling the lathe and tools, and didn't have any other place to get rid of it, that I would pay him **waaay** less than what it was worth (i.e. a few hundred bucks), but find a **very** good home for it (ME!!!). Told him that I'm currently only working part-time, due to watching the kids -- so I can't afford to pay him what it's worth.
We'll see if anything comes of it.
3. Monday, May 3 and Tues, May 4: Trying a new technique for getting stuff done. For the last year or so, I've been staying up 'til midnight, 1am, and sometimes 2am -- then "sleeping in" in the morning. Problem is, the kids wake up around 6:30am or 7am, so I keep getting woke up. Gah.
The new technique is to do an hour or two in the evening, but try to get to bed around 11am-11:30am. Then I get up around 6am: even though the kids are up, The Lady wrangles them, so I can get stuff done for an hour or two in the morning.
So far, the new technique is **kinda** working. Yesterday morning it worked pretty well; this morning, B2 came out looking for me around 7am, so I only got less than an hour in.
I'm also trying to squeeze in a few hours during the day, at the kitchen table, while the boys play. Some days it works; some days (when they're uncooperative, or when I have errands to do), it doesn't.
Minor gripe: A bit annoying that at my age (40) and educational level (post-B.A.), I'm still doing "piecework" labor: paid by the hour; if I'm sick, or it's a three-day weekend or holiday and I don't want to work, then I don't get paid. Plus, trying to watch the kids, do a bit of housework (admittedly, not much!), and still have to try to clock up the hours in the off-hours.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Impressive sand artist
I was recently forwarded an e-mail of an impressive sand artist (drawing with her fingers in the sand -- not sandcastles). Here's a link to the YouTube video.
Here's the description from the e-mail (you should probably read this prior to watching the video, as some of the things she draws only make sense if you're culturally Ukranian.
This video shows the winner of 2009s " Ukraine s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Her talent, which admittedly is a strange one, is mesmeric to watch.
The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears and she won the top prize of about $75,000.
She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.
It is replaced by a woman's face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman's face appears.
She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.
This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.
In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.
The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine , resulted in one in four of the population being killed with eight to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42 million.
An art critic said:
"I find it difficult enough to create art using paper and pencils or paintbrushes, but using sand and fingers is beyond me. The art, especially when the war is used as the subject matter, even brings some audience members to tears. And there's surely no bigger compliment."
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Insight to classical music
I just checked out the Wikipedia article for Emilie Autumn (whom my Guitar Cousin told me about).
She says that, when attending traditional classical music training, she was repeatedly told:
"You are not what is important. You are literally a vessel for the music of some a person has been dead for some hundred of years. You are meant to keep your individuality out if, because it’s not about you.”
I’m just too wildly independent and selfish for that. [...] yah it’s about me, because you’re dead and I’m not and I’m the reason why any body’s getting to hear your [...] music. And guess who would have agreed absolutely? They guy who wrote it. They would have never had a problem with that.
When I read that, I had an insight: Anyone who plays ''Classical'' music (Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, etc.) is really just doing a cover of the original. And orchestras, and chamber music groups, are really just ''cover bands''.
Sometimes cover bands try to be as close to the original as possible: i.e., tribute bands. And other times, musicians tweak the original a bit. Or, a lot (e.g. Devo's ''(Can't Get No) Satisfaction".
And: both approaches are valid.