Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Class Project Done

After getting delayed several times, I still managed to get my last assignment for Survey of Music Technology in a day ahead of schedule. To be fair, I had some small advantage on this one: it involved programming, and I've done a fair bit of that in my time.

But since I did understand a lot of the concepts going in, it gave me time to have fun with it. Instead of using the sound files that were supplied for the class, I recorded my own, about ten of them, and manipulated them with the programming scripts to create something that, while it won't be on anyone's Top Ten list, is still an interesting result.

If you're curious, you can hear it on my SoundCloud account. It's the one called "Some Random Pluck." The "Pluck" refers to the fact that the dominant track is composed of a total of six recordings of my six-string banjo; five of the recordings are single notes.

The "drum" track is actually make of sounds created with a balloon. The only synthesized sound is the horn sound, which comes from my old Casio keyboard. It's also the only one with effects added. I was required to create the effect myself in the computer program.

In fact, I was required to create the entire soundtrack using only the computer program, without any manual manipulations in the recording software. So although the individual bits are my recordings, the music itself was generated by my computer.

Even though I knew a lot of the programming concepts, I learned a lot over the course of the last five weeks of this class that I'm going to be able to apply to my musical composition for some time to come. I really love this online learning thing!

Friday, September 27, 2013


William went to his first ever dance today. It was a fundraiser for the Vista program, to partly offset the cost of their Spring camping trip. William didn't want to go to the dance, as he told us again and again, but we felt it was important, especially as he would be directly benefitting from the proceeds.

And when Thomas, Daniel, and I picked him up (for Thomas was working until 8:00 and so I had to pick him up since I had his car), he said that it, well, wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.

And when we got home he proceeded to tell me about all the fun that he had. And that he'd actually danced. A little.

And he met a girl.

I don't think I'll have to sell him on the next dance.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Just Missed

I took a picture on Saturday, transferred it to my computer, and then completely forgot to upload it to the site, which is why there was a repeat from last month on Sunday. So the picture I took Saturday is there today.

You might wonder why you've seen nothing but Danny in the pictures for the past few days; it's just a timing issue. William was away camping Thursday and Friday, and was exhausted on Saturday and Sunday, and didn't feel like doing much that was picture-worthy.

He'll be back on the front page soon. I promise!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Settling In

The boys have been back in school for a few weeks, and Tom has been at work a bit longer than that. As much as possible, given the fact that I now have two members of the household who work unpredictable schedules, I am settling into some manner of a routine.

Right now the routine involves housework, construction, cooking, selling on eBay, promoting the books we've already published, and writing, as well as keeping up on my coursework (and you can hear some of the results of what I'm doing at SoundCloud). I'm also trying to get ready for winter, including whatever preparations need to be made to install our wood stove.

But starting October 1, I'm adding some heavy work to my routine: the fulfillment of my 52-Week Creative Challenge. I have announced that I'm going to create, in the 52 weeks following 10/1/13, 52 online videos. 26 songs, twelve Kindle articles, four books, and one feature-length screenplay.

It sounds impossible. For all I know it might be impossible. But when I was taking my first songwriting class, I managed to create a song from scratch in about two weeks while going through Hell Week and opening week of a play that I was running the booth for. And the second time I took the course, I did the same thing, although in that case at least the play I was appearing in was over before the final weeks of the course.

With the new tools that I've learned, and some organization, I think I can do this and still fulfill all my other obligations (including, yes, theater; I'm running lights for Fiddler On the Roof and planning to audition for two shows next year). What the course taught me is that, if I organize my thoughts at the start of a project, I can get the writing done according to a schedule. If I can sustain that for a whole year, then I will have a substantial body of work out there in the world.

And even if I don't quite meet my goals, I still will have done a lot more work in the coming year than in any of the years past. So, whatever the outcome, the effort is worthwhile.

And there is something you, dear reader, can do to help. Tell everyone! And while you're at it follow me on YouTube, SoundCloud, Twitter, and my blog about the experience (and if you're not a member of any of those sites, at least bookmark the YouTube, SoundCloud and blog links so you can look in on them from time to time).

But definitely tell everyone you know online to look in on me, because the more people know about this, the harder it will be for me to back out when the going gets rough. And that's just the kind of push that I need.

Camping and Hiking

William went on an overnight campout with his classmates to the White Mountains on Thursday and Friday. He was hurting by the time he came home on the bus Friday afternoon, but very happy. He had hiked about 12 miles, pitched a tent nearly by himself (and without any adult help), and eaten some very hearty meals.

He gets to repeat the experience, at a different site (and most likely with colder weather) in the Spring. By that time he will have many weeks of hiking under his belt, and will know his classmates much better. Sometimes he claims that he doesn't want to go on these trips, but in the end he usually had a very good time.

Although I have to admit, it's strange waking up without him in the house (even if I do get to sleep an extra hour in the morning).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Campout and Campin

William is at a friend's house tonight, and last I heard, the plan was for them to camp out. They certainly have a beautiful night for it.

By way of making it up to Daniel, who wasn't invited, Karen brought home pizza, root beer, and ice cream, and Danny got to choose a movie to bring home from the library. He chose Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he's having a camp in, in our living room.

Good thing Karen doesn't have to go to work in the morning.

Danny and I also played with the Lego Robot that William built during the summer. We programmed it to sense when it bumped into anything, and respond by backing up and turning left before proceeding forward once more.

The first problem was that when it would go under something higher than its sensor arm, but not higher than itself, it would get stuck. We solved that by putting extensions on the arms to sense anything up to just above the robot's height.

The second problem was that the robot won't sense anything directly in front of it; you have to reach down and tough one of its two sensor arms. We haven't solved that one, yet.

Might have to bring William in with some of his Lego-building expertise.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


A series of short but intense thunder showers made for a very noisy day. Fortunately, there were some breaks to work on a recording I had to do for one of my online courses (not songwriting this time; music technology).

But we came away without even a loss of power, and the breaks between storms even managed to fall on the times when each member of the family came home today. Pretty nifty, don't you think?

At least these storms are bringing cooler weather. It was over 90 and raining on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back to Work

After we got Karen's car back on Friday, Karen quickly signed up to camp at a gathering of tiny trailer aficionados, which was conveniently located in Milton, about 20 minutes drive from home. We don't have our trailer yet, but future trailer owners are welcome to join in.

So the weekend was filled with camping, which included a lot of fun, good food, and music (I even brought my guitar and joined in), but not a lot of sleep. So Sunday afternoon was mostly recovery time.

And Monday was mostly running around time, including time running around trying to save some money on our cell phone bill, which turned out to be a fool's errand (and guess who the fool was).

Today I actually had half the day alone in the house to do construction, coursework, and even some writing.

I'm also working on a special project, which you'll be hearing a lot more about. You can get a little preview here.

Friday, September 06, 2013


Today we are going to go pick up Karen's car, so we will once again be a two-car family. Of course, with Karen returning to work Monday, it won't be so much different than it has been for the past few days, but I hate to think how much running around there'd be if she had to go back to work short one car.

In other repair news, the night before last our fancy ceramic cooktop range stopped working. The electronic control panel seemed to think that everything was working fine, but with no heat coming from either burners or oven elements, I was hard-pressed to agree.

Happily, this story has a cheaper ending than the story of Karen's Subaru. A little online time with Samsung revealed that there is a way of resetting the controls (which is not mentioned in the troubleshooting section of the manual), and everything is working again.

Good. I was not looking forward to doing all of the cooking with the microwave, the crockpot, and the bread maker.

Monday, September 02, 2013


That's mostly what's happening with the Brooks Bunch today, on a rainy Labor day when Karen and Tom both have to work (no rest for retail). Not that there's nuthin' to do. I have paperwork to fill out and packing to do for the boys' return to school.

William is in a program at the middle school called "Vista." I'm not exactly sure what it is, except that the students will be spending less time sitting at desks and more time out and about observing the world, with lots of reading and writing. So that can't be bad.

But there is a bit of gearing up to do, including having hiking boots for William by the end of the week, since every Friday includes a hike. And, of course, William has outgrown his hiking boots. As a matter of fact, Danny has outgrown William's hiking boots.

I'm in so much trouble.