I got the rare chance to play guitar, just for fun, for a good 30+ minutes tonight (life with kids is a life of interruption) and somewhere along the line I felt the music grab hold of me in a way I haven't felt in years.Read More
Three days ago, my brother Sam and I drove up to Defiance, OH from our hometown of Ottawa, OH to visit "Pack Rat's," a pawn shop where he had seen some decent guitars at a good price (I've been wanting to buy a Telecaster¹ for a little while now). When we arrived there was a sign on the door saying the place was closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 5 and, not wanting to waste the half-hour drive, we headed downtown to see if we could find any other music stores.
We happened across Don's Music Center on Clinton St. and went inside. It's a small store with guitars on one wall and some other instruments and accessories on the other. The checkout counter is just inside the door with some effects pedals on display, and there's another counter in the back where Don does his repairs. Behind that is a stairway leading up to an area for lessons and another repair bench. The prices are written on small posterboard signs behind each guitar. "I've got some sales running through the end of the year - $50 off this guitar (he points at a Les Paul), $30 off those (he gestures at a row of Squiers). Let me know if you want to try anything out."
Sam and I quietly look over the guitars on offer and Sam suggests I try out one of the thinline Squier Telecasters since I hadn't played one before. They're interesting, a semi-hollowbody version of a traditionally solid-body guitar. At the direction of numerous signs posted behind the guitars, I ask Don if I can try it out. He takes it down from the wall hook and pulls a little amp over for me to plug into. It's a small Fender amp with some different presets to model different types of amp/cab combos, and I'm not a huge fan of it. I soon discovered that it was just as easy to twiddle the gain/volume/tone knobs on it as to try to pick a preset, so I used it that way and had a much better time of it. The guitar itself wasn't bad; it was fun to try out something different. After the thinline Tele I asked to try out an Epiphone Special and Don was happy to oblige. It played pretty well but I noticed the tuners weren't particularly great. Such are the changes that come with a $200 price drop, I suppose.
We were about to head out, but I noticed a banjo hanging on the opposite wall and decided to try it out. It was an Epiphone closed-back 5-string banjo with beautiful wood grain that looked like walnut and had a cool eagle graphic on the back². I asked Don if I could try it out, and he got the banjo down for me. I had never played a banjo before; the closest I'd come was a 6-string "banjitar" tuned like a guitar that I had tried at Guitar Center once. That one didn't really sound like a banjo and just didn't feel right (even though I had never touched a real banjo to know how it was supposed to feel).
This one was different.
This felt like a real banjo, and more importantly sounded like a real banjo³. The instrument gave off a warm, plucky tone - sweet, rich, and mellow when played softly; strong, frenzied, and just a little harsh when played harder. This instrument felt natural even though I'd never played it before, and I found myself thinking, "I could learn this."
For the past few months I had thought that I might like banjo, just because I like the way they sound. Having played one, I knew this was an instrument I needed to learn. I didn't know how it would happen because money is pretty tight these days, but I knew I wanted to get a banjo somehow.
That night, my friend Alex came over to visit, and as it happened he ended up buying a camera flash and cord I had been wanting to sell (conveniently, I had them in Ohio with me). Suddenly, I had over half the money needed to buy that banjo. The next day I was telling my brother Matt about the banjo and how close I was to having the cash for it. In a fit of brotherly love, he PayPal'd me a contribution to the banjo fund, and I was ready to go.
I called Don's Music Center and asked about their hours. He said they'd be open until 5pm on the 30th and 11am-3pm on the 31st, except that his dad was sick and in the hospital and he might need to take a trip instead of opening the store that day. I briefly considered heading straight to Defiance but since I hadn't fully discussed the purchase with Caitlin yet and we'd be heading through there the next day, I decided to wait.
The next day as we came through Defiance, I turned down Clinton St. and found that Don's Music Center was closed. I was disappointed not to be heading home with a banjo, concerned for Don's dad, but glad that he was able to go visit him⁴.
When we got back to South Bend, I started asking around if any of my friends knew of a decent banjo for sale in the area. I checked Craigslist but didn't come up with much. My friend Nat mentioned that he had a banjo but didn't want to sell it, even though he didn't play it much. I asked if he might be willing to let me borrow it until I'm able to buy one, and he agreed to do so.
So that's where I am today. I've got a banjo in my hands and this excites me very much. The timing worked out for this thing to be my de facto new year resolution, and as such I went so far as to declare on Facebook, "2016 will be the year I learn to play the banjo."
Here we go :)
¹ a Squier Telecaster, that is. I'm not made of money, you know.
² turns out it was an Epiphone MB-200, and was mahogany rather than walnut
³ perhaps it helps that it was a real banjo.
⁴ the first time we visited the store, Don mentioned "I won't ever get rich from this store, but I own the building and everything in it, the building's paid for, and family is the most important thing anyway." Don is my kind of guy.
This morning in the shower I realized I ought to (and would like to) write a worship song for Easter. A basic verse and concept for a chorus came to me so I did my best to remember them until I could write them down somehow. For all my trying, though, I still forgot most of it by the time I got to work. However, as I started to sketch out ideas in Finale NotePad, the initial idea came back to me and I developed it into perhaps 2/3 of a song.
When I got home from work today I tried to play and sing the song for the first time, and I found that it was not in a great key for me. I was able to hum the part quietly while working out the melody because it was in the lower portion of my range, but when it came time to sing out, the notes were difficult to project. I could sing an octave up but found that it was at the upper edge of my comfortable, non-falsetto range. Because of this I decided to move up a fourth, from the key of G major to the key of C major. I took the chord chart I had written up and transposed the chords over.
With the song (or part of a song anyway) transcribed into a more comfortable key, I sat down at our piano and played through what I had done so far. It went much more smoothly, and I found a couple of spots where the chords I had written didn't flow as well as I would have liked so I swapped them out for different ones. In addition, I developed a better chord progression for the chorus that incorporated a descending bassline as the musical peak of the song is reached.
With a better idea of how the song needs to progress, I discarded the initial arrangement and have begun composing the song in PreSonus Studio One which allows me to approach it a little differently and offers more tonal variety. As I near completion of a first draft, I'd like to record a demo of it, and preparing the arrangement in Studio One now will save me a lot of time later.
It has been quite a while since I wrote any original music so this has been refreshing and fun. I'm glad I felt the nudge to take up this project and glad I went with it.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a worship song for Easter, so it (hopefully) conveys the hope of the Gospel in the context of Jesus' death and resurrection. The song's working title is "Mercy Flows" but that may change.
As I wrote yesterday, I recently got a MIDI keyboard controller that came with a copy of PreSonus' excellent DAW software, Studio One Artist v2.6. I shared a song that I made while remembering how to use it (having used a demo version in the past) and talked at excessive length about my visit to Sweetwater and the aforementioned keyboard controller purchased there.
The day after making that first experimental track I made another one. Here it is:
This track was again comprised only of virtual instruments that were included with the Studio One software, though I did modify some of the sounds a bit, included some effects, and worked a little bit with automating some of the instrument parameters as the song progressed.
On a recent trip to visit Caitlin's family outside of Fort Wayne, we stopped by Sweetwater to have a look around. I had never been there before (though I've purchased from them online) and I was excited to check out the store. It didn't disappoint, and in fact reminded me of the old Woodwind & Brasswind store¹ in its glory days.
I only made it into the section of the store devoted to keyboards, pianos, synthesizers and the like, but even that provided a wonderful experience where I got to try out a bunch of cool stuff (including a DSI Prophet 12, which was just awesome, and a Yamaha NU1 hybrid piano, which was also super impressive). My real purpose in going to Sweetwater, though,² was to check out a few keyboard controllers and feel them under my fingers before purchasing one to use with my computer.
I finally settled on a Nektar Impact iX61, a fairly basic controller that consists of 61 keys³ along with pitch bend and modulation wheels, one volume slider, and a set of transport controls that double as transpose/octave shift controls. There's a jack for a sustain pedal, a USB port which provides both power and computer connectivity, and a power switch on the back. The key action is squishy like most cheaper keyboards (i.e. not hammer-action or weighted) but has a decent feel to it. I liked the keybed feel on the Roland A-800 pro just a bit better, but that controller is significantly more expensive and does not come with PreSonus' Studio One software.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the iX61 is the software that came bundled with it - PreSonus Studio One Artist v2.6 (and later, a free upgrade to Studio One Artist v3). Studio One is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software, designed for recording, arranging, and producing music. I had played with the professional editions of both v2 and v3 in the past as 30-day trials and was very impressed with both versions. I've played with other DAWs in the past and always found them to be intimidating and difficult to pick up at first but Studio One was much more intuitive, and I knew from that experience that I would want to purchase it someday.
Even though I bought the iX61 back in August I only recently got it out and installed Studio One - I had so many other projects going on that I couldn't let myself dive into this until I wrapped some others up, so it made for some good motivation to get everything else completed! Recently, however, I finally did install Studio One and jumped in to give it a try.
Because it had been a while since I used Studio One I got back into it slowly, and my first project was made without the keyboard controller or any of my external equipment - I programmed the parts on the "piano roll" arranger and used mostly-stock sounds on the included virtual instruments. Here's what I came up with as my first sketch:
I'd like to develop the idea further and add more to it, but for right now I feel like I'm more engaged and learning faster by cranking out several small projects or sketches because it reinforces the basic concepts while allowing me to go deeper in a variety of styles. And yes that does mean more are on the way :)
¹RIP WWBW :'(
²well, other than just to gawk at everything
³five octaves starting and ending at C, can be shifted in either direction
As you may recall from a previous post, I have a variety of keyboard/synthesizer/music stuff that I enjoy playing with. One glaring deficiency in my setup is my lack of enough table space to easily work with everything, and I've been intending to build some sort of shelf for my keyboard stand for a while now.
Last night I happened to look in my garage and noticed that all the materials I needed were sitting right there waiting for me (leftovers from previous projects). For this simple shelf I cut some plywood and some 2x2's down to size, attached the 2x2's to the bottom of the plywood, and sanded everything a little bit to take the majority of splinters off.
Behold, the result!
I'm going to give this a try for a while to see if it's a good size/plan - assuming it is I'd like to put some kind of veneer over the surface to make it look nicer and add a small lip to the front edge to keep things from sliding off.
This shelf is 35" wide by 18" deep, which comfortably fits my Arturia MiniBrute SE next to the Alesis ControlPAD midi controller:
It also (just barely) fits my Korg MS-20 mini and the MiniBrute side-by-side:
Please forgive the poor quality of the photos; I took these when I popped home over my lunch break so I didn't have time to move the things to better lighting or get out a better camera.
Anyway, I'm really happy with the results, especially given that I was starting with scrap materials. I hope my synths' newfound accessibility encourages me to use them more :)
When I was a kid, we had three electronics project kits that always sat on the shelf in my brother Sam's bedroom closet. I'm not sure where they came from (other than Radio Shack, originally) but they were one of those toys that I often got out to fiddle with. We had this one, which I used more when I was younger:
And this one, which I remember using maybe around the time I was 10 or 12?
Then there was this one, which for some reason I never really used. I think there weren't any wires in the box and I couldn't bring myself to use some OTHER kit's wires because what if they got all mixed up. Can't have that.
Anyway, if you can't tell from the pictures, these were all kits that let you build circuits by connecting different components together. These components were mounted on the surface of the project kit and the leads were connected to the springs on the box. To connect two components together, you simply bend their respective springs to the side, insert the stripped end of a wire, and release the spring. It's a clever system that actually worked quite well.
These kits came with books showing both the schematic diagram for each project circuit as well as a visual representation that depicted the face of the project kit with lines drawn to connect the components correctly. You could build the project by following the numbers listed in the instructions - for example it would say "2-17" meaning you should connect a wire from terminal 2 to terminal 17, and so on for the rest of the circuit.
I always thought these project kits were pretty neat and I loved following the instructions to build a circuit and then (usually) see it function. I remember the 200-in-1 kit had a "wheel of fortune" project that, as far as I can recall, acted basically like a random number generator with the output going to the 7-segment LED panel - I spent hours carefully following the manual and hooking up wires to complete the circuit. I have no idea if it actually worked or not but I sure do have fond memories of the build process.
Despite all the warm fuzzies conjured up by my reminiscence, I never learned a ton about electronics from these things. I understood how a circuit worked (generally speaking), and I could tell you approximately what each component did, but I never picked up on how to take those pieces and build something of my own. I never understood how the systems actually functioned and as a result couldn't do much to modify the given circuits or come up with an independent design.
I was pretty much okay with that... UNTIL NOW.
Spurred on by a tutorial I found online, I've finally decided it's time to stop being so ignorant about how circuits work. I have a bigger project planned (the one in the aforementioned-but-unnamed tutorial), but for now I'm getting started by learning about Arduino basics. I also picked up a breadboard, some resistors, and a pack of LEDs and made this:
It's about as simple as you can get, but I was proud of having put it together. The circuit consists of a 9V battery, a few resistors to cut down the voltage, and then a green LED. This was partly to practice using a resistor calculator, partly to practice how breadboards work, and partly because the simple goal of getting an LED to illuminate was one that had confounded me as a child (looking back, I probably blew out an LED or two in those kits by shoving too much voltage through them).
Having completed this task, I got the Arduino into the mix and made this stoplight:
The green light comes on for three seconds, then it goes off and the yellow light comes on for one second, then it goes off and the red light is on for three seconds. I decided on the stoplight theme because Elias loves stoplights so much (he definitely thinks Mr. Rogers is cool for having one right in his house). It was easy to put together and the programming for it was also very simple, but it gave me a chance to build something myself without following a tutorial or other instructions. If I can figure out how to replicate the circuit's function inexpensively (e.g. with timer chips or something like that rather than a whole Arduino board) then I'd like to build a little toy stoplight with a switch for Elias and Amelia to play with for their toy cars. We'll see how that goes, I have a lot of projects happening (or wanting to happen) right now.
I hope to post more regularly¹ so hopefully I'll be able to keep you up to date with how these projects are going. I'm excited about them and I hope you are too! I've got the electronics thing, some music stuff, computer things are happening, my office is sort-of-rearranged... good stuff.
¹said every blogger ever
It has been almost two months since I posted here, mostly because I've been unreasonably busy. Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to point out that two rocket launches happened yesterday. Here is one, an Atlas V rocket taking a Navy satellite into space:
And another, more edited video of the launch process for this same rocket:
In addition a Soyuz rocket was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome (near Russia) carrying three people (two cosmonauts, one astronaut) toward the international space station.
Let me repeat that:
RIGHT NOW THERE ARE THREE PEOPLE TRAVELING THROUGH SPACE TOWARD THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. THIS IS SUPER AWESOME.
When they arrive there will be 9 people aboard the International Space Station which just 1.5 months ago only had 3 people in it. Here's a video of yesterday's launch:
In conclusion: space travel is super awesome and it's really disappointing that people don't make a bigger deal over it.
Today was a rough day, but the title track from David Crowder Band's Give Us Rest helped me through it. I've been wanting to record a version for a while so I put this together:
I limited myself to two takes per track so that I could finish quickly and keep moving. There's one vocal track, two synth tracks (virtual instruments), one guitar and one bass track (both real instruments). It's not perfect at all but that's kind of the whole point of this blog.
Over the past two days I've shared a few stories of times when I consciously went against my nature and decided to talk to strangers. Here is another such story (after this I'll shut up about my personality and find something better to talk about).
On Tuesday as I went to the FedEx location on S.R. 23 in South Bend to return some rental gear to LensRentals¹ I noticed a man standing out in front of his green Volvo 240 wagon with the hood up, talking with one of the guys from the AutoZone in the strip mall. I've been a fan of 240's for a while now and I thought about going over to say hi, but I decided instead to just take my packages in and drop them off at the Pack & Ship counter. "Maybe if they're still out there when I come out of FedEx," I thought, "maybe then I'll say hi." Well, they weren't there when I came out of FedEx - in fact they were heading in to AutoZone. I decided to drive over next to the 240 just to take a look at the vehicle since, as mentioned, I am a fan of 240's.
Then it got weird.²
I found myself getting out of my car and walking into AutoZone. The guy who presumably owned the 240 was just checking out, having purchased a battery terminal cleaning brush. I intercepted him on the way out of the store. "Are you the guy with the 240 out there?" He affirmed that he was indeed that guy. I mumbled something back about how that was cool and how I noticed it because I had a Volvo too. "It was a real nice car until a deer met the front end of it," he mentioned. I agreed that this sort of thing is liable to mess a car up. "So what's going on with it?" I asked, unintentionally (but probably beneficially) using my most helpful OIT Help Desk tone.³ He told me that it was having trouble starting, that he noticed one of the wires going to the starter was frayed down to a thread, that he and a friend of his had hooked up a wire that ran from the starter up to the battery handle, so he could put the key in and then come up front and touch the wire to the battery and get it to start.
I told him about Matthew's Volvo Site and how its forums were full of friendly and helpful Volvo lovers from all across the country and even around the world. He asked where the guy was from. I wasn't sure. Colorado, maybe?
He told me about his son, who works for Delphi, and about how they work on projects for all kinds of cars including Volvo, and how someone at Volvo flew him out to the factory in... where is it? It's over on the Southwest side, near Denmark. "Gothenburg, maybe?" That sounded right. He kept fiddling under the hood with the wires that now held it in place, twisting them around and around. "Somebody from my church gave me this car, it just keeps going." I asked how many miles it had on it (this is a great conversational starting point for anybody with an old Volvo. We love to know how many miles are on it). He said, "That's a funny thing. The odometer stopped working! It said 129,000 when I got it but who knows how long it's been broke. It's probably a lot more than that now."
He mentioned that he was originally from West Lafayette but that he came up here to work construction at Notre Dame. I assumed he meant the Campus Crossroads Project, temporarily forgetting about the thousand other construction projects ND currently has going. I mentioned that I worked in the building next to the stadium and that I sometimes go up and look out the 2nd or 3rd floor windows to watch the construction progress. "Oh, I've got a niece, er, uh... a niece that works at Notre Dame. Her husband works there too." Cool. "Do you know any Colombians?" Uh.... I guess not? No, I don't think so. "Oh. They're both Colombian, she and her husband. They work in, uh.... I guess it's north of the stadium. Are you north of the stadium?" "No," I said, "I'm on the west side there, in the classroom building."
At some point the conversation sort of trailed off. I wished him good luck with the car and he said thanks, and then I did another weird thing that sometimes happens because I don't know how to end conversations. I stuck my hand out. "Peter."
I'm really bad at remembering to say things like "My name is Peter, by the way." I just get stage fright and remember that it's polite to introduce myself but forget to say the other words and just sort of yell my name at whoever I've just met while attempting to shake their hand.
"Peter? I'm Gary." He shook my hand. I wished him good luck with the 240 again as I turned to climb back into the minivan. (The Volvo, as it happens, is currently in a state of partial disassembly in my garage. That'll be a blog post here sooner or later.)
Anyway, what I am saying is that I had a perfectly pleasant conversation with a stranger and nothing bad happened. It wasn't even uncomfortable except for the part where I decided to say hello.
If the thought of conversing with a stranger terrifies you like it usually does me, you should still give it a try sometime. You probably won't even have to say much. People love talking about themselves and telling their stories. All you have to do is listen and ask a question or two. My friend Dan is a master at this. He's so good at it that I usually find myself halfway through the conversation thinking, "I am talking way too much. Uh, quick! Come up with something to ask!" and then I end up sort of stumbling back through whatever question he last asked me, trying to get him to answer it too.
I'm getting better at it, I guess.
¹Highly recommended, by the way. Excellent selection and even better customer service... and their prices are reasonable!
²For me, anyway. As you may have inferred, I don't really do this kind of thing a lot.
³Imagine a doctor saying "Let's take a look" in that kind of soothing, reassuring way as he lifts a stethoscope to his ears.
Scott posted that quote up there on Facebook yesterday and it got me thinking about how things have changed since I was younger, and specifically about how it's easier to be introverted now. I wrote a post about that yesterday, and about a couple of moments in my life where I've chosen to be a little bit extraverted for a particular reason.
I don't particularly like talking to strangers most of the time. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the most basic one is that I would generally prefer to keep to myself. Though the assessment has plenty of weaknesses, whenever I take a Myers-Briggs test I typically am told that I'm an INTP (the I is for introvert¹). It is strange, then, that my job specifically entails talking to people. Lots of people. Week 1 (way back in Feb. 2011) was an exercise in learning not to be afraid of a ringing telephone. I've learned to be okay with it, because the other big component of my job entails being helpful, and I really like being helpful. At least I hope so because otherwise I am not fit for my job.²
Last weekend my family and two other families to whom Caitlin is related went on a vacation to Michigan's splendid Upper Peninsula. (Her dad and youngest brother also came along. She is related to them too.) By the time we made it into the U.P. from Wisconsin, my cell phone had lost service and wouldn't regain it until we drove from the U.P. to the Mitten across the Mackinac Bridge.³ As a result, one of my primary methods of avoiding human contact was rendered inert.
On our way home, a strange thing happened. I approached pairs of strangers on two separate occasions to ask if they would like me to take their photo. I don't know if it was my good mood, all the practice not looking at my phone, my general desire to be helpful, or memories of gratitude when a stranger offered to take our photo (twice! Once on our honeymoon in Tennessee, and once on a family trip to Houston, TX), but at any rate here I was, walking up to one half of a couple taking the other half's photo, walking up to a person awkwardly holding her arm out to get a two-person selfie, and essentially saying "hey, I would like to be part of your life for a moment."
It went well. They seemed happy, I felt helpful, and nobody gave me a sideways look. Maybe it helped that, should they think me weird, I knew I'd probably never see them again. Anyway, it was fine. You should try it sometime.
¹Somebody should make a children's book about psychology called I is for Introvert. It could have intricate coloring pages in the back that take hours to complete.
²Insert potential mini-crisis here.
³The astute reader will note that our outbound and inbound routes differed. Indeed, we circumnavigated Lake Michigan. Hurrah!
I am not particularly outgoing by nature, and technology has generally removed any need I might otherwise have had for talking to other people except as it pertains to my job or my family. A song from Sesame Street suggests that there are in fact people in my neighborhood, people that I meet each day, but I have found that this need not be the case. Who might I meet each day? A bank teller? Nope, online banking. A checkout clerk? Nope, the self-checkout lane. A gas station attendant? Nope, pay at the pump. Asking somebody the time? Nope, my cell phone. Small talk in a waiting room? Nope, my cell phone. Directions when I'm out of town? Nope, my cell phone. Friendly strangers while I'm out for a walk? Nope, their cell phone (and earbuds). Whew.
At certain points in my life I have made a conscious effort to engage others in conversation where normally I would remain silent. Actually, the first example that comes to mind is not so much about engaging in conversation as it is about opening myself up to conversation, which can be just as terrifying. When I left my high school and the classmates I had studied with for 13 years, I went to Bethel College, where I was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of strangers and barely knew anyone else. I decided that I would probably have a better experience if I met some people, and that probably most other people were not just going to come up and start talking to me. For these reasons I decided to say "Hi" to everyone I met on the sidewalks of Bethel's campus who wasn't already having a conversation. No "how are you" because I hate that most people don't want an answer (or don't give an answer), and no "Hi, my name is Peter" because that's weird and creepy. Just "Hi."
A lot of people said "Hi" back, and though I don't remember it leading to any particular conversations, it made me feel a lot less closed off than I would have felt sticking to my nature and silently walking (or rolling) down the sidewalk. I'm sure it allowed me to participate in later conversations that I would have otherwise not been part of, either because I recognized a person from having said "Hi" to them or maybe because they recognized me.
The second example I can think of is a few months ago when I was shopping at Meijer by myself. As I passed by the aisle with the snack crackers I saw a man put a box of orange cheese-flavored things in his and his wife's cart, and she said, "oh wait, do we want Cheese Nips or Cheez-its?" This struck me as a perfect example of the mundane conversations we all have all the time - things that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things yet they're still really important to us on a small scale - and I thought it was hilarious and awesome. The inside of me smiled when I felt a weird urge to ask them which they decided on. This is not me. But, I thought, if it made me smile then maybe it would make them smile too. Or maybe they would just think I was weird. Whether I like it or not, I care a lot about what strangers think of me. On the other hand, there's a good chance I'll never see them again. In the end, my curiosity overpowered my shyness and I turned the cart around and felt myself walking back an aisle to where the cracker discussion had taken place. I don't remember exactly how it played out, but I said something like, "Sorry, but I overheard the earth-shattering discussion happening and now I just have to know: Did you go with Cheese Nips or Cheez-its?" It was at this moment that I suddenly realized what was happening. I had just strolled into a stranger's life and asked them a very personal question about what kind of snack crackers they preferred. What was I doing? This is embarrassing and weird! Wait, I think they're laughing. Oh good, at least it was ha-ha weird and not call-the-police weird. It only took about half a second to think all of that so I just kept going. I peeked into their cart and observed, "ah, Cheese Nips, huh? Good choice. Well, have a nice night!" Freed from the situation I had put myself in I wheeled the cart around and walked, maybe a little faster than usual, back toward the front of the store past the tank full of lobsters who thankfully were unable to point and laugh at my fit of social ineptitude.
Still, it made me feel good to share my observation with someone else and it felt good that they thought it was funny too. I walked toward the self-checkout with a goofy smile on my face.
As a Christian, reading the Bible regularly is one of my weaknesses - that is to say, I don't do it as often as I probably should. Recently, however, I felt compelled to start reading the book of James, and almost every day since then I have read at least a chapter or two moving forward from there. This morning I read 1 John chapter 4, and it reinforced what God has been saying to me through the last few books (James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John), which is this:
If we truly believe that God loves us, our reciprocation should be not only to Him but also to our fellow man¹. If we do not have love for the humans around us who have been made in God's image (hint: this is everybody), then we do not have love for God. Our love for others should be a reflection of God's love for us, and He loves us unconditionally.
There are a bunch of verses that talk about this, but I'll just include the last one I read today, which was 1 John 4:21:
And this commandment we have from [God]: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
There are all kinds of current events this could be applied to, but I don't really want to get on a soapbox, so I'm going to leave it at that. God loves all of us more profoundly and more deeply than we can possibly comprehend, and our response should be one of praise, gratitude, and a love for God so boundless that it spills over into unmitigated love for one another.
¹yes, as in 'mankind.' Yes, that includes all of humanity. You know what I meant, no need to fuss about it.
My last post detailed the progress (or seeming lack of it) made so far on the remodel of the main closet in my office. I am happy to report that this closet is now complete!¹
When we last left our heroic closet, it looked approximately like this:
Since that time, I added additional baseboard along the long back wall - some of the floorboards didn't quite make it to the back of the closet, so this was my way of covering up those gaps. After that, Caitlin and I painted the inside of the closet a bright white that matches the trim in the rest of the office, and then I was able to replace the old outlets not just in the closet, but in 3 other locations around my office as well. I also installed the face plate for the network jacks and set the shelves in place on their cleats:
These are pieces of 3/4" red-oak-faced plywood which I had cut (a little too long, as it turned out) and stained nearly a year ago. They sat nicely on the cleats and were pretty stable once I installed some small L-brackets to hold them in place, but there was still a notable amount of flex near the middle of the shelves. While they probably would have been okay, I didn't want them to sag over time, so I attached a piece of 1x2 pine to the bottom of the shelves at the front as shown in the photo above. To prevent splitting, I pre-drilled about 10 holes per board (just under an 8' span) and then screwed this reinforcement piece to the shelf above it. This added a lot of rigidity. The final step was to add a face piece to the edge of the shelves in order to clean up the look a little bit. I went back and forth on several options but ended up going with strips of PVC lattice, a little over 1-1/2" wide and around 1/8" thick. I attached them to the shelves using J-B Weld ClearWeld Epoxy. I wasn't sure how well that would turn out but it went much better than I would have guessed.
I mixed up the epoxy and used the stir stick to spread a thin layer on the back side of the face strips and on the edge of the shelf. Then I stuck them together, using two clamps to help wrangle the long flexible strip into place. I left the clamps in place for a few minutes until the epoxy had set, during which time I also used several pieces of painter's tape to hold the strip firmly against the shelf. This worked very well:
After the epoxy had cured (I gave it about 90 minutes) it seemed like the strip was securely in place, so I repeated the process with the next two shelves. This time I used a foam brush to get the epoxy to spread more evenly across both surfaces:
I was quite happy with how well the PVC strip cleaned up the look of the shelves:
And with that, the project was complete! Here's my #shelfie:
¹okay, fine: mostly complete. That space up above the closet needs to have the sliding doors painted and reinstalled. However, they don't prevent me from using the shelves below which means I can get this office back in order! Excitement abounds.
If you happened to follow the rävenfoto blog when it existed, you may recall a post about remodeling one of the bedrooms in my house into an office. It was a fairly big job; we repainted the walls from a weird green to a dark gray, repainted the ceiling and trim from off-white to bright white, pulled up the carpet and refinished the red oak flooring underneath, added several outlets and four network jacks, and replaced the lighting fixture with track lighting that runs all the way around the room.
When all of the above was completed, the remodel was probably 90% complete, and I began using the room as my office... at which point nearly all progress on the remodel ceased. A few things got done afterward - we replaced the folding wooden shutter doors on the odd over-the-stairs closet with an aesthetically clean white piece of wood; I finally installed shades on the windows - but one task loitered in the corner, looming over me, leering at me. It was a gaping hole (two, actually) in the otherwise-quite-nice-looking room. It was: THE CLOSET.
Unlike the odd over-the-stairs closet or the former walk-in closet doorway that is now a bookshelf, this is just an ordinary bedroom closet. 8 feet wide, a few feet deep, with a rack to hang clothes on and some shelves on either end, and a nice big hole in the drywall 19" high and 26" wide... you know, just a normal closet. (As near as we can tell, there was previously a hole on the other side of the wall as well, and maybe a previous owner had a TV situated in the wall so as to view it from the living room. If there is one thing our house does not lack, it is features.)
In the process of refinishing the oak floor, I removed the folding doors which had previously spanned the now-gaping maw of the formidable closet. I decided that an open-front closet would make the room feel a bit bigger, and that having the interior painted bright white would bring a little more light into a room with dark gray walls. Sounds pretty great, right? *pats self on back* The only problem is that I then proceeded to use the closet, in its dreadful state, to hold stuff.
Gentle reader, I will let you in on something. Stuff does not like to move. In fact, Newton's first law of motion confirms to us that once you put stuff somewhere, said stuff will stay right there unless somebody¹ does something about it. So you see, the stuff was not taunting me, nor tormenting, nor purposefully blocking my progress on the closet project. It was instead dutifully following the laws of the universe, just waiting for some action on my part to overcome my default state of inaction, to move that stuff out of the way and to keep the project rolling.
I found it much easier to just blame the stuff.
I did make some baby steps² - by last year sometime, I managed to get some nice 3/4" oak plywood to use for long shelves in the closet (I even cut it to size and stained it), and had removed the ugly/boring wire rack from the closet. Other than that, though, not much changed. Eventually, however, I did make a little progress by getting that stuff out of the closet. As a result, some of that stuff ended up in the main area of my office, where it was (is) in the way all the time. I knocked out the old shelves, and in order to get that stuff back in the closet where it would be out of my way and where I could access it easily, I have to get some shelves back in place.
I ran four more network cables, for reasons.³ I finally got that stupid hole patched up. I finally have some new baseboard to go across the back of the closet. I finally got some cleats attached to the wall to help support the new shelves. It finally feels like this thing might get finished soon, after all.
A day or two ago, I sat in the closet doing some work but lamenting how long it was all taking - it seemed like as I got closer to the end there were more and more things to do to get it done right. It seemed like I wasn't making progress but there I was, sitting in the closet, doing work. My perspective at that moment was one of defeat, of frustration at the "one more thing" that needed to be done. Instead, I should have realized that showing up to do the work is a win in itself. It's like I forgot for a moment that I have this blog to help me do things by way of sharing them with the internet.
So here I am, and here it is - progress:
The white cleats previously held shelves that went the short way across the closet. All that's really left is to put a bit more trim at the baseboard, paint everything (except the floor - note the [plastic] dropcloth!), and then install the shelves (which still need to be trimmed down by about a half inch, because apparently I can't measure). I guess at that point I'll still need to install the faceplate for the network jacks and swap out the receptacle for a newer style one to match the rest of the office. Okay, so that list got a little longer than I expected, but still - progress! Real progress too, not the kind where you think you're getting stuff done but really you're just staying busy for the sake of busyness.
ANYWAY, thanks as always for joining me as I attempt to do stuff and then share it with the internet. I really appreciate your company.
¹ I'm using the term "somebody" fairly liberally here, perhaps more accurately rendered "some body" because really all it takes is an unbalanced force to move the stuff, which could come in the form of a celestial body straying too close to Earth and drawing the stuff in by its gravity (though at that point we've got bigger fish to fry), or by a body of water forming in my office and causing the stuff to float away (though again, bigger fish), or by shifting tectonic plates causing an earthquake that dislodges the stuff from its happy nook (at which point the closet would remodel itself as well, though perhaps not in the fashion desired). The point is, the stuff is unlikely to move unless a person moves it, and I'm the only one who's likely to do that, especially now that Caitlin is pregnant and is not supposed to move stuff. Doctor's orders, you know.
² The term "Baby Steps" is kind of a misnomer unto itself - I mean, what baby can actually take steps? I guess you could classify crawling as step-taking, though that's really a stretch. By the time a baby takes said steps, it is well into the territory of "toddling" at which point the child is by definition a toddler. Get with it, idiom!
I did just consider the fact that the "baby" in "baby steps" could itself be a metaphor, referring to the diminutive size of the proverbial steps. On behalf of grumpy linguists everywhere I would like to formally apologize to both the idiom and its mother.
³ Reasons! First of all I just enjoy running network cable to places where it may be needed. In this case I ran four of them because I planned to use two for my wireless access point/router (one coming in from the modem and one heading back down to my 16-port switch), and one for my networked printer. "But wait!" cries the astute reader, "Two plus one equals three! This is a different number from four!" If the astute reader is you, you are correct. It just seemed better to put in four because it's a lot easier to find a four-port keystone plate, and because I've got a 24-port patch panel so why not? It was after wiring up these four ports that I sheepishly realized that my networked printer contains only a wireless adapter, having no ethernet port. Ah, well... reasons. I'm sure I'll find a use for the extra ports sometime.
This past weekend was a busy one. On Friday I shot video at a wedding and reception in Portage and Valparaiso, respectively (thanks to Joe for his assistance!); on Saturday I shot video at the recital we held for our music students; on Sunday I got to play along with our worship band after church (I'll be playing occasionally starting soon). The weekend rolled on into Monday when I shot a promotional video for the EZ-Trieve Pen, a product for which I am helping with marketing and launch strategy. (Thanks to Will for his assistance!) After that wrapped up we had a couple of hours before our next thing so we went to Notre Dame and wandered around filming things.
I wanted to get a feel for working with the footage from the C100 because it had been a while, and also I wanted to stretch my editing muscles with something inconsequential (again because it had been a while) so I dumped all of the ND shots into Premiere and picked out the ones that were least bad. Behold:
This was much fun to shoot and refreshing to edit. Next up will be the recital video because I can knock it out quickly and then the wedding video because I promised a 2-week turnaround time. The EZ-Trieve pen will require another day of shooting further down the road before I have everything I need so it will be on hold for a bit as soon as I get some preliminary work done first.
When the recital and wedding videos are complete my next project will be to finish the logo and website for my friend Chelsea, who is an editor (of words, not videos) and you should hire her if you need any words edited. Clearly I could use some help in this area but this is just a silly blog so I think we'll be okay. If you have anything that matters, though - a book, say, or a dissertation, or even a resume/cover letter - you should definitely email Chelsea@SafeHarborEditing.com and she can help you out.
Well there we have it. It looks like this blog achieved its stated goal once again, because I made a thing and shared it with the internet. Thanks for being here!
Last Monday evening, my daughter got sick. Then my wife got sick. Then I got sick. It was dreadful. Thankfully, my son managed not to show any signs of illness, though he had been sick the previous week so maybe he's the one that handed it off to the rest of us.
At any rate, today is the first day I've felt mostly normal in just over a week (though it feels like it was two weeks) so that's why you haven't seen any updates from me in a while.
See you all soon!
This time around I decided to try my hand at producing a rap-oriented track. I've had this little hook rolling around in my head for months, and now that I've gotten a handle on the basics of Audiotool it proved to be a good way to put some bones on the idea and see how it moved.
That was a weird metaphor.
Anyway, here it is - I'd love to hear any feedback you might have!
In this track, I played a lot more with automation, where I program the instruments to take certain actions at specific times (filter sweeps, turning effects on or off, etc.)
I'd love to hear your feedback on these first two tracks, whether it's here on the blog, on Facebook, or on SoundCloud! I'm having a lot of fun playing with this website and I'm excited to keep learning with it.
Recently, my brother Matt introduced me to a website called Audiotool.com - it's a web app that facilitates music creation and it includes several virtual instruments, a mixer, a multitrack sequencer/editor, and the ability to import your own sounds or samples.
I played with it for a few minutes the night he showed it to me, and then yesterday I played with it for a few hours. I didn't get super deep into the features available with Audiotool, but it's pretty intuitive and I was able to play with several of the included modules. None of the modules are directly named what they've been designed after, because of course the names are copyrighted. That said, I used a TR-808 and TR-909 (both Roland drum machines), a TB-303 (bass sequencer), and a 3-oscillator synth that seems a lot like a Minimoog. I also used a couple of reverb pedals, a distortion pedal, and two somethings. In Audiotool it's called a Tonematrix but I'm not sure the real-life thing it's modeled on, though it looks more or less like a Novation Launchpad, but with 16x16 buttons. The virtual instrument acts as a sequencer though it can also output its own notes as well which sound a bit like a marimba.
Anyway, here's what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it!