Hurricane Wilma

I’m on dial-up for a bit, so no blog entries until my DSL is back.  I made it through the hurricane, but have not had power for 5 days.  I hope that Rick and Christine made it through OK, I haven’t heard from either one yet.  Pictures will be posted soon…
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Back to normal postings… Practicing and Transcribing

For guitar players, one of the biggest things to learn is how to listen.  This becomes transcribing, where one listens, then either plays or writes down what is heard.  Transcribing is can be very difficult, as there is only ONE way to learn it.  Practice, practice, practice, then put some REAL time into it…  Fortunately, there is an EXCELLENT program out there to help with transcribing, and that product is Transcribe!
 
*Aside – I do not work for Seventhstring, nor do I receive anything for writing about this program.  I just consider it a great tool for myself*
 
Also, Transcribe! has another great use, other than for it’s intended duties.  It makes a great way to practice with backing tracks.  Here’s why…
 
Three things that are absolutely critical to transcribing are tuning, tempo, and length. 
 
Getting one’s guitar to sound the same pitch as what’s on a track can be maddening.  In the old days you had one of two choices, change the tuning on your guitar or adjust the pitch of the playback by changing the speed of playback with the tape player, record player, or with certain kinds of CD players.  Unfortunately, while changing the speed DID change the pitch, it also change the tempo of the song.  Enter computers (or dedicated pitch shifter effects).  Instead of pitch shifting the guitar to get the sound right (it feels really weird when playing), someone got the great idea to pitch shift the track.  This works very well, but it does make for a little bit odd sound, as EVERYTHING is pitch shifted.
 
Tempo is the next important aspect of transcribing.  Pro’s can play at frightening speeds and make it look incredibly easy (that’s why they are PRO’S!).  For us mere mortals to figure out some music, we must slow the track down.  This makes it easier to pick out the notes.  Again, in the old days, slowing the playback down changed the pitch.  Most tape players had a 1/2 speed switch.  This would play back the track an octave lower at 1/2 speed.  Computers allow for changing the speed of playback and auto adjusting the pitch shifting, so that the playback just sounds slower, but at the same pitch.  Now you can slow playback down to any percentage, and the pitches will sound the same as before.
 
Finally, length.  To transcribe intricate parts, one needs to be able to loop over a section or snippet of a song.  Trying to do that with a tape was an excercise in tape breaking.  Some CD players had an A/B function that allowed you to set a start-end repeating section.  Computer programs allow you to select a section of the song down to the waveform level.  Plus, digital playback never wears out.
 
All of these items together allow for great practice.  You can select a section of song to repeat, so you can practice just one riff over and over again.  If the track is too fast, you can slow it down.  Finally, you don’t have to change the tuning of the guitar if the original recording is a little ‘off’.

Good weekend!

Well, except for the University of Tennessee losing, the weekend was a good one.  First off, no trip to Orlando!  Yeah!  I enjoy travelling every now and then, but two weeks in a row being on the road was a little bit wearing. 
 
Second, I was able to get my guitar set up by a professional tech.  This is important.  For any guitar players reading this, at some point, have a good tech setup your guitar.  It will be amazing the difference.  I thought that my guitar played well.  I’ve been back practicing, and noticed that I was fighting the guitar a little bit.  So, off to the tech, and in 30 minutes, he had adjusted it, and, boom, it plays like a champ!  Also, my friend Rick was with me, and he’s got his own story to tell…
 
Finally, Sunday was a nice day of rest.  I was finally able to get Windows Vista installed on a virtual machine (thanks VMWARE!).  Plus I was able to watch the race, some football, and some golf.
 
Monday, I’ll be back to the rat race, but right now, I’m just happy…

Houston, we have burnout…

One day off in three weeks… Ack!  I’m looking forward to this weekend, I need a little bit of a break.  Things have been going very well, but very hectic.  I did a conversion from Visual Studio 2003 to 2005, plus converted our data from one system to another.  I’ve been researching a couple other projects, and doing the miscellaneous help work, plus helping our new programmer.
 
Even with being this busy, burnout has crept in.  I tried to play guitar a night or two ago, and couldn’t even begin to focus on it.  I haven’t really programmed much in the last week, as doing conversions usually means making sure the data matches up, then doing some tweaking.  I’ve even been kinda short with my boss, and that’s certainly NOT good.  (Yes, Rich, I know you’re reading this…)
 
I do have a plan to try to get past this ‘blah’ stage.  First off, I’m trying to get organized.  I’ve got to use the To Do list in Outlook and our issue tracking software to sort out what has to be done.  Second is play guitar.  After seeing that crazy cartoon I linked to earlier, I realize I need to get my butt back playing.  Finally, I need to turn off the computer.  I’ve been working on work at home every night for the last 3 weeks straight.  Exercising instead of surfing!
 
Hopefully, with my semi-plan, I’ll get past the burnout stage quickly!

Macintosh uncertainty…

The news that NetNewsWire has been aquired by Newsgator has me thinking about my Mac.  One of the main reason that I wanted to work with the Mac was because of this particular program.  Most of the PC RSS readers had some deficiency that could not be overcome.  What I wanted was simple… Store all of the items in my feeds, make them searchable, allow me to flag items to find later, and make it reasonably quick.  Up until recently, no PC reader had met that criteria.  RSSBandit was close, but it kept loosing news items.  So NetNewsWire was a great solution, it provided all of the functionality that I was looking for.  I was happy.  But… (you could see that coming a mile away) I had to start doing some development on my PC.  Plus, Sauce Reader for the PC had a new version out that wasn’t half bad.  Then Sauce Reader’s company closed it doors, and they sold the source code.  I was *not* happy with my choices for readers for work.  So, I checked out RSSBandit again, just to see if they had updated their code.  I was in luck, there was a new alpha/beta of RSSBandit, code named Nightcrawler.  I decided to try it, for a ‘what the heck’.  Surprising, it is working VERY well.  If someone (maybe me!) would write a filter/plug-in so that MSN Desktop search could index items, I’d be unbelievably happy.  As it is, the built in search is quite good, but it’d be nice to be able to integrate like NetNewsWire and Spotlight.
 
Now, what does this have to do with my uncertainty?  My major programs are now back on the PC.  Quicken for mac is horrible.  I started using Microsoft Money, and have been quite impressed.  NetNewsWire has serious competition from RSS Bandit.  Virtual PC is not even in the same league as the wonderful VMWare, and let’s not forget Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0.  These plus some games, and the ability to upgrade easily and cheaply, make me think that the Microsoft platform has a LOT to offer.  And Vista is due out late next year.
 
As far as what’s going wrong with the Mac, I definitely have issues with my Mac, audio interface and iSight.  The tech support answer I got from M-Audio didn’t really help, and I haven’t found anyone else with either the setup or the issue.  Plus, Apple’s business practices have been out of character for Apple lately.  My boss has a Nano that has a broken screen, and he was told that he could give it back and get a 10% credit on a new one!  The thing is a week old, for goodness sake!  Plus, this intentional mislabeling of Mac mini’s so that Apple can clear out there stock actually shocks me to the bone!  What happens when the Mactels are released?  You might get a mactel, but you might get a G5?  I’d be very upset if I was trying to buy a Mini right now, because you don’t know what’s in the box until you open it.  Surprise!
 
I still think the Mac has a better interface, with a LOT more thought and artistry going into the user interaction.  BUT, Windows developers can get do the same with just a little bit of care in their user interface designs, too…

Starting to work out again…

After Rick’s posts about health and willpower, I’ve decided to get back into at least a similance of a routine.  I kicked it off tonight with a 1 mile walk, done in 18 minutes, with a 2.5% incline… Not the best of starts, but not the worst either.  I’ve got to get some endurance going, because my karate is starting back up, and I’ve got to make a run for my brown belt soon, then black belt in a year or two.  Now, if I can just do this every other night, I’d be a happy camper.

‘Serenity’ review

All I can say is… wow!  I loved the TV series, and wished they had run far longer than 11 shows.  I bought the DVD’s as soon as they were available.  I like the fact that Joss Wheaton focused on the character interaction rather than the special effects (come to think of it, that’s why I like the new Battlestar Galatica).  I like the special effects, but I’ve grown out of movies/shows that are only special effects (else I’d have loved Revenge of the Sith).  I really like the fact there was humor thrown in everywhere, even when the situation was dire.  You do have to listen really well to what everyone says, as those are the funniest remarks.
 
About the only thing that I didn’t like is the ‘unreal’ saves.  It reminds me of some of the writings of Terry Brooks.  Sorta like… "Things can’t get worse, things get worse, things can’t get worse, things get worse, poof, we made it through with no problems."  There are some surprises, but the ending does get a little bit out there…
 
Hopefully, there will be more movies in this series, or that they will revive the TV series..

To add insult to injury…

When I was in Orlando this weekend, my A/C died…  This meant driving back from Orlando with no A/C, going to the service center, getting told the the entire thing needs to be replaced, and should have been earlier (even thought they JUST replaced the compressor and said everything was fine)  All I can say is, I’ve had it.  Before I get all the usual ‘Get rid of the car’ posts, let me say this… I’d love to.  The only problem with getting rid of my car is that it’s more expensive to get rid of it than keep it… (Don’t ask).  To really top it off, they didn’t have the parts in stock, nor a rental car, so I ended driving MY car out with no A/C…. Grrrr….

Although, I wish I were dead…

It sounds like Christine has some good news soon.  If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say she’s been offered a one-way ticket out of South Florida.  Good Luck Christine!
 
On a completely different subject (and a completely different person)… I have the complete opposite happening… I had finally met a lady whom I could picture in my life, you know, someone to spend the rest of it with.  For me that’s not an easy thing, as I’m fairly self-centered (for good or bad).  My luck with dating has been on the terrible side (no more drinkers!), and it doesn’t help that I’m shy, quiet, and scared of my own shadow…  I’m not a ‘forceful’ guy, and I am more interested making someone happy, rather than making myself happy. 
 
Well, that all came kinda crumbling down today.  I’ll not go into any specifics, but needless to say, I crashed and burned.  This lady will definitely be someone whom I’ll call friend for a very long time, but there can be nothing between us.  If nothing else, this experience has me thinking about what *I* want as well as what someone else wants.  I now don’t find it impossible to picture sharing my life with someone.  I’ve just got to find the right one…