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Old friends

Saw Ted today. We met in the 6th grade and have stayed friends ever since. Not counting my cousins, he is my oldest friend. He brought his daughter and we had a classic adventure getting lost at Point Defiance. We walked down to Owens Beach, then West along the water until we ran out of time. We saw a trail heading up the steep bank and started up. The trail petered out and we were lost. Not really lost…though that depends on how you define it. But it got interesting as we picked our way though the forest until a road showed up.

We are going to get together in a couple weeks to jam. We started playing together in high school when 4 of us started a garage band. I was the harp player and Ted played base. We had a rhythm, lead guitarist and a drummer. The drummer had a real job so he was in charge of renting the rehearsal garage. I remember pedaling my bicycle to band practice. We only played a few gigs, but it was lots of fun playing and practicing.

Later Ted and Bob formed a much better band that won a competition in Seattle.  They toured Eastern Europe on a fully funded one month concert tour. We all thought they were on their way to something big…but I think they broke up not long after that. We continued jamming for a decade after high school, but then drifted apart as old friends do. There were a few meetings over the decades that followed but they got farther and farther apart.  Anyway it was awesome to see my old buddy again and I hope we play some live music soon.

I stumbled across a Tedx talk online about a guy who says social media is bad for your career. This runs counter to current thinking, but his speech was so compelling I decided to take a break from Facebook and Instagram for a while. It’s only been two days but I like it already.

His main point was that social media is distracting and keeps you from doing what he calls: “Deep Work”. That is defined as long periods, like 4 or more hours where you are completely focused on one task. For a programmer it might be writing complex code. For a writer it would mean writing non-stop for hours with no distraction. For me as an artist, it means painting steadily for hours without any distraction…at all.

He also argues that a commonly held social media theory is a myth. The theory is that being on social media widens your networking audience and makes you more employable. He feels that getting off social media will make us much more marketable because we will be able to do deep work. And that deep work is so rare that it will overcome our lack of social media presence and bring employers. It makes sense. Multi tasking is a dog that won’t hunt. Deep work is something I’ve always loved. Running a printing press was all about deep work. We’d commonly work 12 hours or longer. Climbing is all about deep work and total focus. I never take my cell phone climbing, and I am happier for it.

Speaking of climbing, V. and I spent 3 days at Squish and discovered a new crag called the Papoose. I’d been there with Bud Miller decades ago but never went back after a runnout scare, until last weekend. There are two lovely 5.9 splitters at the base that we both on-sighted. They were both exceptional climbs and I’m so glad we decided to go exploring on a new crag.

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Recent Songs

I’ve been playing guitar and or harmonica about an hour a day recently. Along with regular exercise, it helps me stay balanced. Music is a wonderful gift I got from my parents, who were also both amateur musicians. Dad sang into his 90’s, and mom played the piano.

Here are my recent songs. Finding the  sheet music and chords for any given song is a challenge. The two websites linked here seem to be the current best choice. Both of them allow you to transpose the key. Transposing is essential if you are a beginner, as I am on the harp. I need as few flats and sharps as possible. Plus the key needs to fit my voice and the guitar chords need to be easy. It’s a lot to ask, but those websites make it happen. And for $5.50, the sheet music is nicely priced and instantly downloadable.

Once I get the chords, I copy them into Word and massage them so they are correct, and so they fit on one page. Here are 4 of my most recent songs.

 

bobby-mcgee
bobby-mcgee

 

save-best4-last
save-best4-last

 

candle-in-wind
candle-in-wind

 

my-father-chords
my-father-chords

 

Sitting on the dock of the bay
Sitting on the dock of the bay
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Made a duet and a game

I learned some filmmaking skills 3 years ago and I like to dust the rust off every now and then. I enjoy the technology and the tools of the trade: DSLR cameras, lenses, lights, clapper boards and double system sound recording.  Editing is also a lot of fun. Making something beautiful that didn’t exist before appeals to the creative side of my personality. Premier is a fine piece of software. I like the challenge of perfectly syncing multiple tracks, and then playing director in the multi-cam window.

In the video below, I set up lights, tripods and cameras, white balanced everything, recruited talent (my wife), performed and recorded 4 video tracks, 2 audio files. Then blended them all together.

The challenging part was syncing the second shoot with the first shoot. They happened a half hour apart, so there was no way to sync with a  clapper board sound. The earpiece I’m wearing is playing the audio from the first take, while I’m recording the second take. I’d never done this before but I think it’s called dubbing. I had to sync the two takes together by looking at the audio waves in Premiere, while listening to the two takes playing simultaneously as layers in the sequence. There were 4 video layers and 6 audio layers. Four of the audio layers would later be deleted as they were from the cameras. But the two Tascam DR-40 digital audio recorder files had to match perfectly with their video files. Long story short, I was able to get the harmonica sound close, then nudge the audio file left and right one frame at a time until it synced, using the keyboard shortcut of Alt + left or right arrow keys.

My other challenge was setting up the multi-cam sequence. It’s too complicated to explain here, but once it’s set up and running, editing  multiple cameras into one final cut is a breeze. A common problem you will face if you try this is that multi-cam window likes to have the audio follow the video. Meaning, if you click camera 3, the sound switches to the audio from camera 3. In double system sound, this doesn’t work, because you delete all the camera audio tracks after syncing, they are low quality.

Instead, you bring in audio from your digital sound recorder, in my case, a Tascam DR-40, which had feed from two real microphones seen in the video below. So I had 4 video tracks, and two audio tracks. When I went to multi-cam window, it would only play the top audio track, which was the guitar and ukulele. It ignored the harp audio track. Even with ‘audio follows video’ unchecked. My solution was to copy the synced audio track from the main layered sequence and paste it into the multi-cam sequence in  a new audio layer. So now I had one video layer and two audio layers, plus I had all 4 videos displaying at the same time, in little thumbnails. All I had to do then was play the video, and click thumbnails in realtime, director style. If you’ve never seen it, go to youtube and search for premiere multi-cam window. It’s awesome.

I also like to listen to music the old fashioned way, by making it myself or with friends. I come from a long line of amateur musicians. Making music was a tradition anytime our family got together for as long as I can remember.  Grandma used to teach piano, but when she became blind in her nineties she still wanted to participate in our sing alongs. Me and my cousin would sit on either side of her. My cousin would sing, and I would play songs on my harmonica, the one in this video. Actually, that 1967 Hohner harmonica got old, so I recently replaced it with a Suzuki SCX-48 Chromatic in the key of C. It is a lovely instrument, but you can be the judge.

 

My Javascript studies are going well. I learned how to build a number guessing game here:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/JavaScript/First_steps/A_first_splash

I’ve got it embedded in an iframe, but if that doesn’t work, here is a direct link. Hint: if you turn on developer tools, I console.log out the random number…so you can cheat.

The tutorial was fun, but as I was working it occurred to me that it could form the backbone of an animated hangman game. I don’t play computer games, life seems to short. But I wanted this game to work, and I wanted it to be pretty.  A lot of what I wanted in the game was functionality that I didn’t know how to program. I found the answers with simple google searches. It is 600 lines of code, including the html, css and JavaScript. I wrote every.single.line.

Here is the game on codepen.

While I was programming the game, I fell in love with a new free code editor called Atom. I like it better than both brackets and sublime. I need to get back to studying Javascript. But if you are curious how I built my hangman game, here is the Javascript code: