Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Did I just read that?

from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/31/burning-body-near-calif-high-school/?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a4:g4:r5:c0.000000:b0:z5 :

" Investigators believe the person was already dead when they were set on fire, KTLA.com reports. "

So the dead person set the investigators on fire?  Tricky.....


(I'm actually all for the use of "they" as an indefinite singular pronoun--it's been used instead of the awkward "he or she" since Shakespeare's time at least. But I'm also a fan of clarity.... and in this case they had already identified the body as probably a man and referred to it as "he" for at least an entire paragraph.).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The dichotomy of gifted kids

Gifted kids are a strange bunch. Parents always half-joke that their kid is studying algebra but can't figure out shoe-tying. (In fact, Caleb likes basic algebra just fine but can't tie his shoes....). Caleb has taught himself how to create computer games, but he has struggled with learning to read an analog clock.

Today we were practicing, and he started the lesson with, "Tell me the dynamics of reading a clock again."

And later, after successfully reading the time on a clock, said almost instantly, "Oh, that's an hour and one minute off the current time."

Apparently the dynamics of clock reading sunk in, and apparently it's easier for him to figure elapsed time than read the clock! (I, for the record, got my only D in ALL of elementary school in all subjects on the elapsed time worksheet in 5th grade, so I think that's pretty nifty that he can do that without thinking).

He did finally grasp reading the clock (I finally got through to him with "Little hand reads the numbers; big hand reads the little lines between the numbers; every dark line is 5" and he got it much much better than any other explanation he's heard.).

I hope it sticks.

Did I just read that?

From http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/03/30/terrifying-sea-critter-from-oceans-depths/?test=faces :

 "A submarine exploring the ocean's depths recently returned with an unexpected visitor: a crablike critter that has left many readers startled and horrified."

TV watchers and moviegoers, though, were unaffected.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Foxnews.com home page today: "US wants Canada to stay in Afghanistan"


So is that like asking your sister to get her own bedroom? Hey--we don't want to share a continent with you anymore!

Did I just read that?

from the New York Times today:  "Health reform hardly solves all of the American economy’s problems. Economic growth over the last decade was slower than in any decade since World War II. The tax cuts of the last 30 years, the two current wars, the Great Recession, the stimulus program and the looming retirement of the baby boomers have created huge deficits. Educational gains have slowed, and the planet is getting hotter." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/business/24leonhardt.html

And could someone please tell me how the planet getting hotter fits into the list of the American economy's problems? Enough on the global warming already! It is NOT the cause of every ill.

More Health Care stuff

This is just the kind of crap that makes me really really frustrated that the government is forcing us to buy into the corrupt system instead of fixing the system. Insurance Companies' culture says, "Don't pay." So we get this:

"The Obama administration has made near-immediate coverage for sick children a priority in its health-care overhaul. But shortly after the bill's passage last week, insurers contended that the law didn't require them to accept sick children until 2014.
The insurance industry's lobby, America's Health Insurance Plans, initially said the law meant only that they needed to cover treatments for sick children who already were customers.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, sent AHIP president Karen Ignagni a letter Monday pledging to issue new regulations in coming weeks to clarify that insurers must take applications from sick children starting in September. "Now is not the time to search for non-existent loopholes that preserve a broken system," Ms. Sebelius said."  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303410404575152100463512126.html
How did the Government think that forcing us all into buying into the broken system, even with some fixes in place, would fix it? You can't stick a few bits of tape on a broken machine and expect it to magically start working. I would have been more in favor of an overhaul that threw out the old way and started over than in this "remodel it a little and force everyone to join at 40% higher rates than before" system. As long as health insurance is for-profit, it's gonna be corrupt, avoid delivering any care at all, and cheat people on the care they can get. Duh.

Did I just read that?

from denver Craigslist yesterday: "Win Photogenic Face Contest - talent gigs"

Who knew getting a new, more photogenic face was so easy?

I wonder what you have to do for the contes
t?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

This is why I'm opposed to the Health Care Bill:

From a liberal opinion (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28rich.html), explaining why the reform is good:  "In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers."


And that's one thing I think is wrong with it. Not that I wanted a public option--I'm a states-rights/small-gov't person, myself--but the government just signed over 32 million Americans to the Insurance companies, forcing them to invest in the people who destroyed health care in the first place!


Yeah--that'll fix things.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Benji Helps Fix up the House

Benji really got into fixing up the house. Unfortunately, his ideas of good remodels don't always match up with my master plan.

Here's what he's done with the dining room wall--he's in the second picture for scale. His medium of choice here is black tempra paint. Unfortunately, the wall was painted in the last year with eggshell/Matte paint (NOT my choice--an error on the part of the repairman). So it's unwashable and will have to be painted again. Not by Benji.




And here's what he's done with the Master Bathroom. Medium: Black Crayola Marker on Matte Eggwhite colored Paint (also unwashable), cabinets, and toilet seat lid.

Here's a detail of the masterpiece. He tells me it's a rocket.

Getting out of the garage

EVERYONE, it seems either is a writer or musician at heart. Or they think they are.

And, in fact, anyone can sit down with a computer and type a novel. And anyone can gather a few like-minded friends and form a band.

The question is how do you start making money at it? How do you go from idea to the real deal?

I can't take you from zero to Britney Spears, but I can take you from zero to gigging steadily and getting paid. At least, on paper. In real life, there are some minor details (like talent) that you have to deal with.

I hear that you have to have 3 things to make it in music: Time, Talent, and Money. You have to have all three, but not equally. In fact, you only have to have an abundance of ONE in order to make it. So keep that in mind as you read this next bit:

IDEA
First, you have to have a good idea. If you're making a copycat of the other copycat coverband, you might have a hard time getting shows because entertainment buyers are going to be booking whoever has the biggest name in the area in their price range. So your idea has to be somewhat unique for your area, but not so unique that it's impossible to market. After all, you have to entice people to come to the shows if you want to keep doing them.

GET THE BAND and the MUSIC
After you have an idea, you have to get a band together. The BEST way to get the best musicians is to be involved in other people's groups for a while and make like-minded friends. Who have friends. Barring that, you can try craigslist, but the best musicians are too busy working to wander around online forums. You also have to make lists of songs you want to perform. Or write songs you want to perform. It's easier to convince musicians to join up with you on a startup project if you have a "book" (sheet music for a whole show's worth of songs) or at least a set list (list of songs in the order you'll perform them). The musicians will bring their own ideas and own songs with them, which is where having a well-defined idea helps keep things focused. 

You can mix those first two steps together. Often you have a vague idea, collect some friends who want to play, and together you refine and define what you are collectively, and everyone contributes materials.

POLISH YOUR PRODUCT
Rehearse a lot. You really won't go far if your product is crappy, no matter how good your idea and songwriting are.

BE AWARE OF WHERE YOU CAN GO
So So SO many bands get together, polish up a list of covers, and then wonder why they don't get to be the next big thing nationally. Cover bands, you might notice if you think about it for a minute, don't get big nationally. They just don't. They can make a great living, work steadily, and have very satisfying musical lives. But they don't get famous nationally. Groups with really great original songs do sometimes get famous. You  just have to have realistic expectations and an understanding of the markets. So keep your eyes open and your ears open and your brain on, and you learn what you need to know.

FREE SHOWS
Just like a company who produces a new product, you have to give out lots and lots of free samples before you really start getting paid for things. So you do free shows--for local fairs and festivals, for the library concert series, for the high school fundraiser. Find out who books the shows (ask the venue, like the library or coffee shop; ask the performers after they leave the stage; google the event or venue and search the website...the information is out there). One of the easiest and most important things you do is Open Mic Nights. These are easy to sign up for, you don't have to have materials, nobody blacklists you for a failed performance. Find local open mic nights that do your kind of music and go. Listen to the other bands and network with them (don't show up, play, and leave). Play. Hang out after you're done and talk. And then go back the next week. And the next. Do LOTS of these. Also, perform in every competition that is in your genre--battles of the bands, vocal competitions, whatever. Just do them. Also volunteer for benefit concerts. You can find shows and venues looking for musicians on sites like Craigslist's musician's forum and gigs section.

GET A PRESS KIT
For a band or a cappella group, you can start with a decent recording o 2-3 songs (you don't have to pay a lot for this, and can actually do it yourself if you're half decent at recording; just don't do a really crappy recording and think you'll get shows). This is your demo. You need a website of some kind (facebook page or myspace page is fine, but you can do more if you can pay for it) that is uncluttered and easy to navigate. Don't (please!) put music that automatically plays on your website. It's a serious turn off.  DO put a player on the website that can be used voluntarily.  People come to your site to hear your music--just let them do it at their own pace.  So demo, website, a short biography (who you are, where you came from, how you got together--that kind of thing. Look at the "about us" on band websites to get an idea of what this should be),  and Pictures. You need pictures. Google "band promo pics" and click on "image results" for ideas of how to do this. You really can have someone you know take them with your digital camera. Eventually  you'll add quotes from people you don't know (don't put on quotes from people you know--it's embarrassing), and positive published reviews (like in the newspaper or online), and video of live performances. Eventually you'll need a promo DVD, but not for a good bit. ALWAYS include contact info--phone and email--on everything you produce. No matter how much they like you, if your contact information is hard to find, you won't get business. 

SEND YOUR PRESS KIT
Start contacting everyone who presents music like you perform. You can find most of the booking information online. You can also walk into venues and ask for their booking person. You can call them and do the same. Email festivals and fairs "info" link on their contact us pages and ask how a group gets booked to perform in their event--they'll usually connect you with the right person.

KEEP DOING SHOWS
Do EVERY show that comes up. Start asking local bands if you can open for them. If you can find a venue, do a public show for everyone you know and tell them to bring their friends. At some point, you will want to record a CD to sell at shows. This should be pretty good quality, so start saving the pennies you earn from the low-paying shows instead of splitting it up.


From there, if you're any good, it just kind of grows. People who buy entertainment for low-paying shows go to the events where bands play free, and they hire you for their low-paying show. And people who buy for moderately-paying shows go to those low-paying shows and hire people. So if you're good, word can spread fairly quickly, until you're making a decent wage at each gig. It's just as important to network with musicians as it is to do shows, so the open mics do double duty--you get to meet other bands, and you get exposure to fans and buyers.

It is possible for things to be going smoothly and growing and then for you to do one little thing that stops all progress. A few of the tripping points: 

Swearing--Groups that swear on stage don't go as far. Period. Just trust me on this one. 

Being hard to work with--groups that show up late, are demanding, leave messes, are rude, or uncommunicative don't go as far. In the "out of the garage" market, there are so so so many groups competing for business that entertainment buyers don't have to work with you if you're a Diva, charge a lot, are irresponsible, or are just hard to work with. They'll not only get someone else next time, word will spread and you won't work anymore.

Refusing to grow--if you get one set together and then never learn another new song ever again, you won't get as much work, and eventually won't work at all. Fans don't want to hear the same songs for 25 years. So you have to constantly be working on newer, better material (without throwing out the old favorites).

Just being bad musically--everyone has a bad show now and then. Everyone has days when the tech is horrible and makes you sound awful. If EVERY performance is bad, though, word will spread and you won't work much anymore.

I'm sure there's more, but this is long enough already!

I guess I got sucked into this.....

When Tim first said, 10 years ago, that he was actually going to be a musician and not a seminary teacher. I said, "Fine. Get it out of your system now before we have 5 kids and no way to support them. Just don't use up family resources to do it. You have to make your own money to invest in it with music."  And I had very little to do with it.

Now we have 5 kids and we're trying to support them on music, and we have used family resources to do it, and notice I said "we"?  Yeah....it kinda crept up on me as I learned more about what was going on. Doesn't help that my interest tests when I finished college said that I would love the job of a musician.  Doesn't help that I have loved design for a long time.  Doesn't help that I enjoy watching the creative process.

So here I am, suddenly finding myself fully involved, and it surprises me!

I have been functioning as an advisor and assistant to Tim for years now, but only in the last few days have I jumped into the day-to-day workings of the business. What I realized was that if we want this to take off and start making money (so we can live), it would work better if TWO people were looking for shows (gigs) than if just one was. Then I realized that it's not rocket science, especially with google.

So I set about my business and have been contacting people, sending press kits, and generally trying to make myself useful.

And I've learned a few things.

Different types of bands have to be booked in different ways. On the one hand, there's the traditional, family-friendly a cappella cover band. We have one of those, and Mister Tim (the live looping show) can fit with those audiences, too. These bands do well performing at fairs, festivals, library performance series, and other places families congregate.  This is something I know something about because we've been on that circuit, so I immediately set to work finding these kinds of shows--I tracked down every state fair website I could find, and learned how to find the booking information on them (it's always buried some weird place, like in the FAQs after "can I bring my dog to the fair" or on the Contact Us page, or some other funky spot). Then I did some county fairs.

And then Tim and I had a long talk and I realized (what he already knew) that Rock Bands, like VoxBom and Throat, are not really admired by that kind of audience. Nobody goes to the afternoon food court stage at the fair expecting to have their ears blasted off by a hard rock band. They would complain. So Tim told me some things--but he's never done a band before either. Both of Tim's rock bands (okay, all three, if you include the a cappella hair band parody group) can be marketed to a cappella groups, but when I saw VoxBom live, I realized they have crossed the barrier into "real music" world instead of being stuck in A cappella land. So I wanted to market them to "real" band venues. And that's where I got stuck. We've never been there before, so how do bands get out of the garage and on the road?

We came up with a few ideas: Local music spots hire in bands. They're called "venues". So I dug up info on the two dozen or so most-mentioned venues in the Denver area. In the process of that, I learned about Promoters. A cappella groups use agents, who give you a few tips and then primarily book shows. They occasionally use managers, who help form the group into something marketable and also deal with details like booking shows, handling money, etc.  A cappella groups never use Promoters. But Bands do. See, promoters book and advertise all the shows at certain venues for a cut of the pay. Theoretically, they bring the best bands to the venues, and bring the best fans to the venues, and get everyone out of the garage. So I got the info for a couple of promoters who cover Denver Venues.

Another way bands get out of the garage is participating in Battles of the Bands. So I dug up info on that and Tim is applying for a couple of big ones (Warped Tour, Hard Rock Cafe).

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one because it's all new to me, but I really feel like VoxBom (now) and Throat (when there are singers for it) are the real, serious groups that Tim has, where Wonder Voice (all covers) is kind of an acappella filler group artistically (they're really good--it's not that. It's just that the groups that end up working steadily aren't cover bands. They're legitimate groups with original music, and that's what VoxBom, Throat, and Mister Tim are).

So now I'm on to local Festivals in Colorado and Utah, and some nationwide (but they aren't as high of priority as finding info on and applying for local stuff). These bridge the two sides--depending on the festival, you get all kinds of music playing, so all Tim's bands become applicable.

And I feel like I have a new job! Sheesh. I spend a lot of time on this. Not because the work is hard, but because there are a LOT of festivals, fairs, and venues, and, just like job applications, you have to send stuff to EVERYTHING in order to get SOMETHING. And we need lots of somethings to make a living.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The reason I'm opposed to taxing the rich

While it makes more sense to tax the rich than the poor, it turns out the poor pay for it anyway. It's an anti-jobs policy.

This was on Foxnews.com today:

If you take the money from the businesses, they have to come up with it from somewhere. And you can bet your bottom dollar they aren't going to take it from the CEO's paycheck or the company's bottom line (which would anger investors).

So they take it from the retired worker's benefits--which means the government has to fill in those gaps with Social Security and Medicare.

In other words, if you tax the rich, we all have to pay more taxes. It creates more poor because you're taking the money from the people who are supporting the middle class. No money for the middle class means they join the ranks of the poor. 

It seems kind of ironic that attempting to decrease the divide between the rich and poor actually increases it.

Did I just read that?

From Foxnews.com's home page today: "Over Half of U.S. Donated to Haiti"


I wonder which half--the East or the West? Or did they divide it the other way and give the South to the impoverished nation?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Denver craigslist today: "All sorts of females and men welcome to apply. "

erg?  "All sorts of females....."?
?????


http://denver.craigslist.org/tlg/1659347863.html

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And this one is for my siblings



All of us "swing dance" (jitterbug). Most of us don't spend much time thinking about the fact that one grandma used to play piano for dance bands and the other used to win jitterbug contests with her brother as her partner (one or another of her brothers--there were 17 kids in her family).

This is for my dad



I've never been much of a fan of clogging, but this makes me wanna dance!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two things about the new health bill

1. It was clearly written by people who have never been poor. They say, "If you're poor, we'll pay for your insurance in the form of an extra tax credit."  And they pat themselves on the back and say, "See? That's fair."  Yeah. Might be fair. But it shows no understanding of poverty. When you're poor, there is no money to put in the first place! You can't lend someone 5 bucks with the promise of being paid back if you don't have 5 bucks to start out with. And you can't pay $1200/month for bare-bones, covers-nothing insurance if you only make $1200 a month, even if someone promises to pay you back. Duh.

2. Didn't anyone notice that insurance companies across the nation were raising their rates 40% in preparation for the bill to pass? Everyone said, "Oh, be nice!" to them, and they said, "Ooooh--poor us! Rising costs!" But no, they were just getting reading for everyone to be forced to buy insurance--at a much higher rate than they would have bought into last year at this time. It's like the grocery stores do--raise their prices sky high right before Thanksgiving so that come Thanksgiving, the "sales" are actually just the normal prices, but they look really low. They do it for "barbecue" holidays, too, like Labor day: Hamburger usually costs 1.69 and goes on sale for $1.00/lb. So three weeks before labor day, they have a big hamburger sale for $1.00/lb. The next week, burger prices are up to 1.89/lb. The week after? 2.50/lb. And then the big labor day sale comes, and they lower their prices to 1.79/lb and you are supposed to think you got a deal. Insurance companies are doing this right now. Just watch it go.

Mandating everyone buy in to insurance won't solve the problems because insurance is corrupt. It IS the problem.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Denver Craigslist gigs today: "preschool age tutor - (se aurora) domestic gigs"


I suppose you might want a 3 year old to tutor you. If you want to learn how to color outside the lines or throw rocks.

So....


Yup.


Smug. Self-centered.

And hopefully short-lived.

He's fired.

In fact, on second thought, let's fire them all and start over with people who care what we think--since it was supposed to be a government by the people and for the people.


(oh, and the picture attribution: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/03/21/house-leaders-make-impassioned-pleas-final-health-care-vote/)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Fox News today: "At least four callers told police 52-year-old Catharine Pierce was in her yard topless on Wednesday. State law prohibits exposed genitals, but Pierce was wearing a thong and gardening gloves." http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/18/colorado-nudist-causes-stir-gardening-topless-near-school/?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a4:g4:r3:c0.000000:b0:z5

Not sure I want to know how the gardening gloves were involved in the non-exposed genitals.....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Fox News today: "Gunman kills Mo. 7-Eleven clerk working last shift"


Well, yes....that would, then, qualify as his last shift.

Benji says,

As we approached a railroad crossing, Benji said, "Look! I see an X!" I replied, "Yes. It says, 'railroad crossing.'"

"No," Benj replied. "It says, 'ks'."

Recording

Tim has found that he "cycles" through the different aspects of his work (writing new materials, recording, arranging, designing, creating press materials, etc) and that it's wisest if he follows his instincts and works at what he feels driven to do, even if it means leaving something unfinished until he cycles back to that aspect again.

Last week he was producing promo materials and creating website content (learning, even, to code).

Right now he's recording, editing, and mixing audio.

I had a conversation with my dad the other day that let me know that what has become familiar to us is still quite foreign to most of the people we know.

No wonder people frequently say to me, "So what does Tim DO?"

So, on a recording phase, here is what he does:

He pulls out a decent studio microphone and his laptop computer and his high-quality headphones. He puts sheet music up on one screen of his computer and the mic in front of him. When he's singing solo lines, he stands upright with the mic right in front of his face (when he's been doing this, it always startles me to walk into his studio and find the mic is above my head!). Sometimes he prints the sheet music and puts it rather high on a music stand.

Then he sings. He'll sing the solo line a phrase at a time (not the whole verse at a time, but "You won't admit you love me, and so--how am I ever to know?"). He'll do it usually 6-12 times in a row. Just like you can read something in many different ways, he can sing it in many different ways, and he does. He's really patient, and if someone flushes the toilet overhead or screams or stomps, he pauses until the noise dies down and then picks up where he left off.  If it's ongoing (Benji got a whistle out today), then he comes up and gently asks the kids to be quieter, distracts them, and takes the noisy whatever far away and out of sight for the time being.  When he's sure he's got several good "takes" (or recordings) of that line, he'll sing the next one over and over. Sometimes going a verse at a time and sometimes going a whole song at a time, he then sings all the backup parts, each 2-5 times, a phrase at a time. Every once in a while I walk into the house and hear the oddest sounds--only to find out later it was a snippet for some song he was working on.

Often, Tim sings either the bass or solo first and then builds everything else around that.  Depending on what he's going to be using the recording for, he might records Every sound you hear in the entire song this way, all by himself, even the women's parts, or he might bring someone into the studio downstairs or one of the studios he knows in town and have them record a part (usually a solo line out of his range, occasionally another part, like the percussion, where he really prefers someone else's style to his own).

He REALLY prefers to record all the parts of a song in the same recording session because otherwise he has to try to "match" what he was doing before--and it's not always that easy. There is ambient noise (the sounds of the lights, and the air, and the outside) that is 'invisible' unless it changes within a song. It's like running out of paint and trying to match it a year later in a different brand--hard to get the same stuff, even if you remember the name of the color you picked.

He uses a computer program called ProTools to capture the audio that he's singing into his mic. Sometimes he also (or instead) uses a program called Garage Band. Both allow you to record and edit what you've recorded.

After all the parts of the song are recorded in triplicate plus, he sits down at his computer to edit and mix.

What he sees on the screen is a picture of the audio. It looks like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/81/ProTools73.png

Reminds me of the "sound wave" on Disney's "Fantasia".

Then, using computer programs like Melodyne, AutoTune, Garage Band, and ProTools, Tim goes in and listens to the recorded snippets and, for each section, picks one or two recordings that sound the best for each part. Sometimes he picks more than two. He lines them up so the song sounds "complete". And yes, the parts are usually doubled (two different takes of the same line singing at the same time) because it sounds better (more complete and more in tune) this way--it all has to do with the psychology of listening and music.

When all the pieces are selected and lined up, then Tim goes through and, using the programs I mentioned, locks everything in so that it all is right on the rhythm. Zooming in on the picture of the sound wave, he can snip out breaths, burps, and other undesirable human sounds. He can move the wave to fix the tuning (or have the computer do it for him). We call this "cleaning up the tracks". This is all editing.  When everything is all lined up and cleaned up, he starts mixing.  You might compare it to baking a cake. Putting all the ingredients in the bowl doesn't make it a cake--or even a batter. You have to mix it up just right to get the right consistency, volume, etc. Putting all the pieces of the song in, even in the right order, doesn't make a finished product. In fact, at this stage, even cleaned up it often sounds pretty lousy.

So we mix.

Mixing is taking what we call the "raw" tracks--just the way it sounded coming out of his mouth--and adding stuff to make it sound like a professional cd.  He can add effects (like reverberations--reverb--that match the sounds of singing in a giant empty concert hall, or a small room, or a church, or whatever he wants; or echoes, delays, loops, etc.).  These effects are kind of like putting a different colored filter on a light--the light is the same, but the color is different. Some of these are so subtle that you think he didn't do anything (he spent 24 hours the other day on a song in order to make it sound like nobody had done anything to it!). Some are really obvious (like making his voice sound like a techno robot or a grunge guitar or--gasp--a woman).  He can tweak the EQ of the recordings, bumping up certain frequencies or dropping other ones out (think of fiddling with the bass and treble knobs on an old stereo--that's messing with the EQ). He's done lots of research on EQ, learning how to make a voice "feel" like an electric bass versus an upright bass, learning how to make the solos "pop out" from the background parts, learning how to make the sound clear and not muddy or indistinct, especially when you have more than one baritone or bass singing different parts.

This is where you want a sound engineer who is also a producer and has a sense of what the songs can do, and who owns the right tools and plugins to make it happen. This is where you create your "sound"--whether it's highly modified, effected stuff or "pristine," clear vocals. It's all mixed. He also runs the songs through various "compression" tools. I can't explain exactly what this means even though Tim has explained it to me lots of times (a. because I have a very tenuous grasp on it and b. because it's so technical that even if I said it, you might not get it. It's all tied up in the science of acoustics). Suffice it to say the difference between recording in a home studio and the stuff you hear on professional cds is, a lot of it, tied up in the compression.

Tim often takes his stuff (or sends it online) to a producer he trusts for a "final mix", where they mix a whole cd to sound like a coherent piece of work instead of random bits of music. He chooses the producer based on the sound he wants in the finished product--they each have their own sound. Sometimes he does this himself--depends on if it's one song or a whole CD.

After the whole cd is "mixed down," Tim takes it to be mastered. Mastering is an artform Tim doesn't do at home, so I don't know how it's done. But it takes the whole CD and "finishes" it, like putting a final coat of glaze on a pot before firing it. Or like baking the cake.

Then Tim takes the mastered copy to a place that will "press" (or make) cds for him. He designs and sends in the artwork and then picks up the finished project later (usually a few days to a week).  He also often dumps the audio into his online store or his websites, where you can listen for free.

And then, we hope, someone listens.

It's not a simple process, really--it requires a great deal of understanding about the human voice, technology and computers, microphone construction and use, psychology, acoustics, etc. But he loves it. And I'm glad he learned how to do it himself and invested in the equipment. It's not uncommon for a single cd to cost $20,000 or more just for the recording. Doing it himself, Tim can keep  the costs really low--in the low hundreds for a promo cd where he doesn't have to order 1000 copies in a run--and that's including the physical copies, not just the recording!

Fibro Update

Last summer I took fish oil and it had an instant, positive effect on my fibromyalgia, with only one pill a day.

So I've been taking it ever since.

Some time last week I began to wonder if it was a fluke and I just hit a positive upswing (since Fibro cycles like that), and concluded the fish oil probably wasn't doing anything. So I stopped taking it.

And within 3 days I was struggling through a mental fog most of the day, had little motivation to do anything, and found myself pretty much confined to my rocking chair, unwilling to DO anything but sit. Sleep problems got much worse. I got snappish at the kids. I craved sugar like CRAZY. Headaches--ooooh man! And I don't usually get the fibro headaches, so that was a new one for me. And I was pretty sure I'd developed an ulcer (abdominal pain is part of fibro, but a part I hadn't had for a LONG time). Actually, I don't usually have long-lasting fibro fog either, so that was frustrating.

Anyway, last night, it occurred to me (finally) what had happened (that maybe I was wrong about the fish oil not doing anything), so I took two pills before bed.

And today I got up and immediately started working on a project I've been trying to get to that is rather intellect-intensive (outlining a complete biology course in which I can index biology sites I find for Learning Lynx). I was relatively cheerful all day, even when it took an hour to get out the door to go grocery shopping. I felt calm, clear-headed, capable. I wanted real food to eat (and when I did eat sugar, I noticed that IT causes the grouchy snappishness, so that has to leave my diet immediately!). No headaches all day. Abdominal pains gone.

It's not a cure: I still can't hold my arms up and gave up half-way through washing the table before dinner. Still couldn't hold a toddler and cook without giving up. But I got up and DID stuff. 2 loads of dishes, grocery shopping, interacting with the kids, etc.

But if fish oil makes the difference between functional and disabled, bring on the fish oil! I'll take it!

Working from home

When I was a kid, my Dad worked from home for many years, and I LOVED it. I rarely went in to see him back in his office and didn't ever bother to find out what he did, but just knowing that Dad was back there made everything right with the world.

Tim has been working from home a lot lately, and I love it.

I can just hear his voice through the vent as he records down there in the "bat cave", and just knowing he's down there makes everything right with the world.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Voice Council features Tim

http://voicecouncil.com/singing-naked/

Faith

I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.

I have known for a while now that faith doesn't mean God does what you want him to do just because you believe he will.

Nor does it mean He does what you expect him to.

It always used to bug me when people would decide something and then say if they had faith, God would do it for them. Faith is NOT the principal of forcing God to fit your ideas. It doesn't work that way.

Also, I've know that it is a mistake to assume an end result from a beginning point. For example, if Heavenly Father says, "Apply for that job," it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to GET that job. We really can't comprehend what He's doing beforehand (or sometimes even after), and we set ourselves up for disappointment if we start trying to dictate the end from the beginning or mandate Father do what we want.

Believing in God is not a magic "out". Having faith doesn't mean you get rescued or spared hard things in life. It doesn't mean things will go smoothly. It doesn't mean each chapter of your life story has a happy ending or follows the plot outline you wrote for yourself.

It's tempting to say to God, "I'll believe anything you want me to, and say it loud, if you'll just get me out of this difficulty I'm facing." But that's not Faith any more than saying, "If I believe in You, then that's faith, and so if I really believe that this thing I want will happen, then that's faith and so it will because believing in something hard enough makes it happen." No, actually, it doesn't.  And you can't trick God into doing what you want just because you tell him you believe in him and will let his will be done (but it's going to be my will, really, because if I SAY he can have his way, he'll give me what I want, right?).

It can be tempting, too, to jump the other way. Instead of believing that God will always do what you want, it's easy to be pessimistic and believe EVERYTHING is going to end up in suffering and misery because life is about gaining experience, and that means hard, miserable suffering right? I remember when I was early in my third pregnancy and had been incredibly sick for several days and then started spotting. I had no insurance, no money, and my husband was out of town. My parents had come to help out, thankfully, and, in tears of grief and terror, I woke my dad in the middle of the night and asked him for a blessing. The blessing said that God knew what was best for our family, and he would take care that the best thing for us happened. Dad went back to bed and I cried myself to sleep, sure I was going to lose my baby because suffering is always the best thing in the long run (where did I get that crazy idea, anyway?!). Eight months later, Daniel was born. It turned out that HAVING the baby was the best thing for our family at that time, not going through the pain of losing a baby. But I was sure that the "best thing for you" always involved afflictions, and I was wrong.

Either way--dictating our own desires or assuming sorrow--it shows a lack of faith.

Because what is Faith? Well, there's this: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/f/1 . That pretty much sums it up.

The thing I've been pondering specifically lately is the connection between faith and real life. It is one thing to say, "God loves us and that He will help us." It's an entirely different thing to really BELIEVE that--in a way that dictates how you feel, what you think, and your actions.  If you really truly believe that Jesus atoned for our sins, then do you just say, "Yeah, He did that," or would that belief and knowledge drive you to repent of your sins?

If you really believe that God is watching out for you and that "all things work together for the good of him who loves God" (Romans 8:24, and D&C 90:28, 98:3, 100:15, etc), even when the storms come, and even when things are difficult or don't go the way you expected, then wouldn't that belief change your outlook and your choices?

If we really truly have faith, then we can trust what God has told us--and that means we can act on it, we can change our lives to go along with it, we can make decisions based on that. In short, if we choose to go beyond simply stating belief and let that belief into our souls, then everything should become different.

Faith truly is a principle of action. I guess the conclusions I've come to are best stated at the link above, which says, "All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action; it carries an assurance of the fulfillment of the things hoped for." Even when you can't see the end of the tunnel.

Anda says,

Anda says, "Mom, books are, like, the best thing in the world. If we didn't have books, I think I'd go crazy. Books are real fun. The Chapter books are the best."

I asked her what her favorite book is, and she said, "I haven't read them all yet, so I can't tell. But I did really enjoy the Little House books and the Harry Potter books a lot."

Today she's reading "The 5 Little Peppers and How They Grew"--the copy my mom gave me when I was a kid. She's also reading "the Secret Garden." And has finished a novel a day since we found the book box. She's just eating them up.

And, just like every other avid reader I know, she already has a list of books she wants to get to as soon as possible.

Did I mention she's just six years old? Yeah. Not putting that one in school. She'd be bored to tears with first grade.

Getting into the groove of things

For some reason, I've made a lot of failed dinners lately--things I never used to mess up that become nearly inedible, like tamale pie that has so much garlic you can't taste anything else. I'm still not sure how that happened.

Anyway, I managed a few successful meals this week. Tim has said for years that he loves corned beef and cabbage, and I've never made it successfully before this week. I've tried a few times, and it always came out yucky. I even asked Tim's mom how she did it, and she said, "Oh, I don't know. I think I boiled the beef until it became tender and then threw the cabbage into the pot and it soaked up all the grease."

Sounds appetizing.

Finally I decided I'd check my crock pot cookbook (Thanks, Chas! You've given me the best cookbooks I own!). I looked at three or four recipes in there and extracted the general gist of how you do it, and then successfully made corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot. Hooray! It was so yummy that all the kids who eat (Daniel really prefers toast and carrots for dinner most nights, regardless of what I made) ate a lot, and I had to force them to save some for Tim, who was rehearsing when dinner was ready. (The secret is to cook it with veggies UNDER the beef--onions if you use them, potatoes, carrots, and the cabbage, in that order, with the slab of corned beef on top).

Then today I really really wanted lasagne, but had no noodles. So I made some. Again, took out several recipes and got the gist of how you do it, and then I did it. Lasagne is easier than other noodles I've made from scratch because the noodles are so big. Anyway, it was the best lasagne I've ever made. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to use my homemade sauce I sometimes make. But even without, the home made noodles were tender and tasty. REALLY tasty. Again everyone but Dan ate a lot. Phew. Nice to have well-fed kids! Plus the recipe made enough for 3 pans of lasagne, so next time I don't have to make the noodles. They'll just be waiting in the fridge.

Success at last!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Concert Report

Going to the Harmony Sweepstakes was fun. I took Nathanael and met Tim there, and Nat was very well-behaved, so I got to enjoy the show.

It was a really good show. The groups were, on the whole, far superior to what I've seen from videos of previous sweeps. That made for a good show for me to watch, but a tough competition..

They also had an incredible variety of groups: an oldies/fun stuff cover group (Wonder Voice), a world music college group (UCD 6),  a vocal jazz ensemble (Clearly Vocal), a funk band (Confidential), a classic rock/oldies cover band (Cool Shooz), a bluegrass/gospel/old timey music quartet (Mountain Blue), and a hard rock original band (Vox Bom). It was apples to oranges trying to compare most of the groups (like trying to judge between Manhattan Transfer and Rockapella--two totally different things).

Interestingly, the group that was the absolute weakest musically won the most awards. That was bothersome.

Confidential took first--they have a good sound and tight harmonies. Their solo-background blend was off, and the songwriting was a little flat (not pitch-wise, but in terms of crafting songs that hold your attention), despite the fact that the songs had interesting hooks. But their sound was really superb.

Vox Bom took second. HOORAY! They were really fantastic, but definitely rock. Still, they had the most interesting solo (even though it didn't win best solo!), and the most developed sound. It didn't feel like a cappella, though. (There is a "feel" to a cappella arranging, and this wasn't it). Actually, the sound really reminds me of OkGo. That kind of music. Very developed, and very appealing to music lovers (not just a cappella fans).  It was a double triumph because it was all Tim's original songs, and it's nigh unto impossible to  win anything at a cappella competitions with original songs.

Nobody won third.

MouthBeats (another of Tim's groups) won last year, so they hosted this year and performed their winning set while the judges were tallying scores. And it absolutely blew me away. I maybe have never seen something that cool. Probably ever. It was entertaining, held my attention the whole time, was cutting edge, and was just plain cool.  Then Tim did one song Live Looping, and that went over REALLY well. Very impressive. Afterward, a man talked to Tim and said he's been in the entertainment world for decades (I think he said 35 years, but I'm not sure), and he has NEVER seen anything that commanded the stage as well as Tim Live Looping, and the woman with him took his name and wants to hire him for her house parties this year (hooray!). I was glad he got to loop.

All in all, it was a fun evening. Especially fun to be with Tim. And after the show, I was chatting with a guy Tim has known for a long time who used to have a Christian a cappella group but it kind of fell apart, and we were talking about Faith, which was really cool--discussing faith when things are rough, and choosing faith, and those kinds of things. Anyway, at the end of the conversation he mentioned that he built a studio on his property (not far from here) and then his group "imploded"--so now he has this empty studio that he's been praying for what to do with it so it can be used--and did Tim need a place to record? And I said, "We've been praying for a place for Tim to record!" So that was neat. The other guy is named Tim, too, and he's a really neat guy.

We were nearly an hour late getting home afterward because there was a massive accident on the freeway and it was closed. We saw the sign just in the nick of time and managed to get off at the exit right before the block (where we could see people sitting on the barriers of the freeway, out of their cars, just waiting--stuck in the traffic jam of a closed freeway at midnight). Unfortunately, that meant we had to drive home from Denver through town, and that was slow going.

Don't know how we're going to make it to church with the time change, though. The big kids all went right to sleep, but Nathanael napped in the car on the way home, so he is just now falling asleep--and it's 4:00 am. Church is at 9:00. Hooray?

This looks promising

http://scriptures4kids.com/

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How I go to shows vs How you probably go to shows

Tonight I am actually going to the Harmony Sweepstakes.

I know, I know--Tim does it every year. Every group he's ever entered has won an award. He's been to nationals twice with two different groups and competed in at least 14 Harmony Sweepstakes Competitions (usually with multiple groups) in the last 6 years or so.  He's caused controversies, complaints, and shouts of joy. He's built a reputation for innovation in a cappella.

And I've never ever in my whole life been to the Harmony Sweepstakes.

So this year I'm going. Tonight. To see MouthBeats host, Wonder Voice and VoxBom compete (and the other groups, of course, but those are Tim's stage time).

So I started thinking about how you go to concerts vs how I do.

You drive to the location of the show, park in the big lot, and walk in.

I drive to the location, park on the grass or in the alley, and search for someone in charge who can let us load equipment in the back. Sometimes I park and come in the same way you do.

You arrive half an hour early or so. I arrive between 1 and 5 hours early.

You get your tickets from will call , pick up a program, use the bathroom, check out the lobby, and get to your seat not long after the house opens.

I head back to the dressing rooms/green room/ backstage area (depending on the venue), usually with something against the rules in tow, like 5 kids and a pizza or two, or 5 bags of fast food. Usually I have no opposition (because, quite frankly, if you act like you belong in a place, the staff usually assumes you do). Sometimes I head into the theater and give feedback on the sound check. Depends on the show. Sometimes I am the one who gives permission to open the house. Sometimes I just hang back--depends on the show.

You sit down before the show and enjoy chatting with your date. You might read the program to learn about the groups, the music, the venue.

I usually come and go several times getting things people forgot, delivering merchandise, checking with the house manager (or being the house manager), repairing or running for costume parts, etc. I sometimes get to sit and chat with my date, but usually with my back turned because I've been around the bands enough that the guys just change their clothes when I'm in the room (and, being a good mormon married girl, I don't want to watch even though they don't seem to care for the most part).

Sometimes I remember to get  my ticket from will call. Sometimes I just sneak in the stage door and head for my seat. If I manage to get a hold of a program, I skim it briefly for correctness in the bio (like are there spelling errors, did they use the one we provided or write their own, etc). I check which picture they used (always feeling out what's working of the promo stuff and what isn't).  I then skim the rest of the program, doing a quick analysis of the other promo pics in it, other bios and intros for groups, and for notices of other events in the venue or town that might hire Tim in the future. In everything, I'm checking the design, the effectiveness of the promotional stuff, and doing a quick scan of writing technicalities (grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice) and design technicalities (color, layout, framing, white space, and whether the design adds to or detracts from the purpose). Then I save it for evidence the show was performed (useful for applying for grad schools, and as a souvenir for me).

You sit and watch the show with your date.

I sit alone and watch my date.

During intermission, you chat with your date about what you've seen, use the bathroom, get a snack.

During intermission, I head back stage and chat with my date about what I've seen only if it's really important, run a few errands, and often have a "talk" with the sound guy (who always are as shocked that I am giving them feedback as women are when Tim comments on how nice their shoes are or something that he sees as costume-related and they see as men don't do that), check merchandise sales, and then head back to my seat.

After a show, you stand in line and wait to meet the singers, get autographs, buy merchandise, and then leave.

After a show, I sell merchandise or check in with whoever is, I stand in a corner or in the back of the room and watch the crowds interact with my  husband until there are only a few people left. These are usually the die-hard fans. If they are female and not with a date, flirty despite their date, or heading to the after party alone, I then step in and kiss my man and get introduced. (I KNOW...selfish of me, right? Just staking my claim before any issues arise.). Sometimes the diehard fans figure out who I am standing there in the background handing out extra sharpies when the guys' pens die, and they seek me out. (I've been called Mrs. Moosebutter more than once). Then I chat with people, usually tell some charming anecdote about the guys (fans LOVE inside information and little tidbits about their favorite performers).

After the audiences leave, I head back to the dressing room and wait until the other guys have left. Then, while Tim changes his clothes, cleans up the dressing room, collects stuff (yeah--how come the bands leave this for Tim? I'm still trying to figure that one out!), I give him a rundown of what I saw. Good stuff, bad stuff, audience response as I could gauge it, tech report, critique of the costumes, the flow of the show (what we call the "programming"), the individual performer's good points and bad points--the whole shebang. I'm usually what performers would call pretty brutal, but Tim needs the feedback from someone. Then I help Tim load out (collect all the costumes, equipment, etc.).  I am often on the stage both before and after a show, setting up, cleaning up, familiarizing myself with the environment.

Sometimes we then go to the after party and stay until everyone else is so drunk it's uncomfortable (which is not so drunk as they will get, but just to the point that they can't converse really anymore), and then we leave.

Sometimes we just go home. Depends on the event and the kids.

When you watch a show, you enjoy the music, enjoy the performance, sing along or tap your feet, notice who looks good and who looks bad, and generally have time to lose yourself in music.

When I watch a show, I notice how the costumes interact with the light and set, how the performers fill the stage and carry themselves, what things jump out that shouldn't and what things don't that should. I notice if the music sounds "right" or not, and tune in to the tech mixes, volume, and if I can hear every voice part. I notice who has good mic technique and who is awkward with the tech. (Did you know you can tell a seasoned performer by how they use a microphone? Really good, experienced performers will hold the mic different ways in different songs to get different sounds out of it and also to reflect the song better.) I notice pacing, costume changes, not just what is being said between songs but how it is said. I notice how the audience is fidgeting and listen carefully to what they're saying and the noises they make while the show is going. I watch the groups to see if they are doing their jobs, if they are screwing up the places that they struggled with in rehearsal, if they "sparkle", if the costumes work or need to be changed. I try to make sure that Tim knows where I am in the house and watch him for cues (very subtle ones) that he needs me to do something (talk to the sound guy, get batteries for a mic, meet him back stage). This rarely happens, but I'm alert anyway just in case.

I used to go to shows to enjoy the music. Now I can't help but analyze them. You go for fun. I go and work.

It just happens to be work that I REALLY enjoy.

Hooray for 1000 posts!

I've now written over 1000 posts on this blog. 

I wonder how many toward my million words that is?

Did I just read that?

This one's charm was it's pairing with the picture:


In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt

New York Times - Peter S. Goodman - ‎48 minutes ago‎
One fast-growing American industry has become a conspicuous beneficiary of the recession: for-profit colleges and trade schools. At institutions that train students for careers in areas like health care, computers and food service, ..."




Yeah--Obama is giving up the presidency, lured into Trade School and Debt because he's run into hard times with the scandals, the health bill....he just decided a change in jobs would be easier, I guess.

But he looks noble doing it.

Did I just read that?

From google news today:

"

Experts say even Obama getting too many med tests

The Associated Press - Lindsey Tanner - ‎21 hours ago‎
CHICAGO - Too much cancer screening, too many heart tests, too many cesarean sections."


Yeah--if Barack Obama had a c-section, I'd say that might be a little over the top.

And since when is a c-section a test, anyway? Just checkin' to see if a baby is really in there?

Did I just read that?

from google news today:

"BusinessWeek - ‎6 hours ago‎
FRIDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Good news for women who have used birth control pills: A long-term study finds that those who took oral contraceptives at some point in their lives have a lower risk of death than women who never took the "Pill"."

So....birth control is the fountain of youth? Some people who take the Pill never die--I mean, usually the risk of death is 100%.  Everyone dies....until now!

http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/636898.html

Okay, further things that cracked me up in this article: they make it clear that this was for The Pill of the '60s and the ingredients  have changed, so it doesn't apply now. And then there's this sentence:

"However, those who took oral contraceptives are at higher risk of violent or accidental death. "

????

I guess motherhood guarantees you're still in the pool with the 100% death risk, but you'll live a safer life.

And then there's this: "Women younger than 40 who took birth control pills had a slightly higher risk of death, the researchers report. The authors conclude that, "oral contraception is not significantly associated with an increased long-term risk of death -- indeed a net benefit was apparent.""

Friday, March 12, 2010

the SITE is UP

http://vocalitysingers.com/

listen. look at pics. This is what Tim has been working on for 3 years.

Scientific "truth"

The refrain I'm hearing more and more often in the media lately is "Why won't they accept scientific truth?"

It's been attached to the autism-vaccines debate, to parents who try alternative ANYTHING (educational ideas, medical treatments, therapies), to the debates in Texas on textbooks, to Global Warming. (See http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1967796,00.html and http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/fixing-kids-with-vision-therapy/, for examples).

It amazes me that the scientists are so full of themselves (and the media so devoted to them) that they even have to ask that question.  Why won't we all just blindly accept scientific truth? 

Because it changes all the time.

Which makes it not truth in my book, but merely the latest theory, the latest fad, the latest trend. 

Actually, there are two reasons for this: any thinking, educated person accepts that scientific "truth" has changed drastically over time. In fact, science celebrates that fact--that they are constantly exploring, honing their theories, discovering new things. Even ideas that have been WELL accepted for a long long time sometimes go under the rug overnight. Like the "truth" that was accepted for centuries that the planets move in spherical orbits. Kepler came along, and--BAM--over night the "truth" changed.  It is extremely hard to put a lot of faith and trust in a system that, by it's very nature and purpose, changes constantly. 5 years ago, for example, the doctors told me that my children should NEVER be exposed to the sun because the sun was toxic to humans (they didn't use these words, but that was the gist of it). NOW they're saying that vitamin D is necessary for health, and we get that from the sun. About-face (cover your back if you can)! (Religion, by contrast, which is broadly lambasted by these same people, includes "truths" that have remained the same for quite literally centuries).

So there's that.

Then there's this: Scientists are all so full of themselves that they refuse to even TEST some ideas. They just reject them outright. In that vision therapy article above, the scientists say in one paragraph, "There are no studies on this."  and in another place, not far from the first, the reporter says the scientists issued a statement decrying the whole therapy system and all the theories it's built on because "There are no studies on it."  So, in other words, there are no studies on this theory, therefore it is invalid and we refuse to study it.

While scientists and doctors can't seem to see that they do this, all of the rest of us can.  And since the studies are lacking or clearly faulty, and the doctors and scientists are so unbelievably egotistical (I can't count the number of doctors who refused to listen to me and then on the next visit proposed what I had suggested myself already--but did it in such a condescending way that I refused to go along with it anymore) and refuse to even test anything they don't already believe in, and the anecdotal evidence is fairly strong, and the "proven" ideas obviously don't work--we're gonna go with what we can (and without being roundly attacked or condescended to).  Chiropractors might be quacks, but they listen.

Tangible example: Doctors were so sure vaccines were safe that they refused for YEARS to do serious studies on the vaccine-autism link. Or they did the studies and didn't get them to the parents (which is actually probably more likely, but either way, the parents didn't feel listened to). Finally they started making broad, blanket statements that there is no apparent link between vaccines and autism. And they slammed the door (or book, whichever). 

The problem is, in doing that, the scientists have refused to look at a WHOLE LOT of anecdotal evidence (you can see it yourself in youtube vids, but anecdotal evidence is apparently _not_ evidence worth considering for anything,  not even a starting point) that shows that something happens to some kids that causes apparent brain damage overnight, resulting in a diagnosis of autism. But the researchers have seemingly closed the book on the case because that something wasn't vaccines--so it must be nothing. The parents made it up and just didn't notice their kid slowly declining, they say. 

(I say seemingly because I hope they are still doing research on this, but they never report research in progress, only completed research--and then only if the journals choose to carry it, and there is some evidence that there is a strong bias in the reporting there, too--in other words, the people who care the most--the parents--aren't getting the word, so they're just frustrated). 

Really, what should have happened is not the "it wasn't vaccines, so you made it all up" approach, but instead a "it wasn't vaccines, so let's find out what it was." 

See the difference? And since there is an unknown something out there that doctors refuse to talk about but that parents can see, all the parents are running scared, causing a serious public health trauma. Even I, who believe in vaccines, have modified the vaccine schedule for my kids in fear of that mysterious brain-stealing monster that hits after the 12- or 18-month vaccines. And instead of getting real help and real research, what we get, as scared parents is, "Shut up and get vaccinated" because otherwise you are "rejecting scientific truth, you IDIOT!"

Yeah--great way to get people to go along, don't you think?

Instead, with the vaccines-autism debate, I'd like to see researchers saying, "Okay, so it wasn't vaccines. Perhaps it was an allergic reaction to a preservative in the tylenol? Or maybe some kids have weak vascular systems in their brains and are having a stroke from the screaming? Maybe there is something that commonly gets introduced to the diet at that point--like hot dogs?" More research. Not more shutting our eyes and let us get back to our pet theories (which seem to focus on the kids who are born with autism--the ones who parents know way early that "something is different" with their child).`

Pretty simple. We don't accept your scientific "truth" that you're trying to cram down our throats because it's not proven itself particularly long-lived or reliable in the past (so why should it be now?) and because the scientists are so tied up in exploring what they already believe that they won't consider the things we so desperately need considered. Plain and simple.

More reasons not to trust scientific "Truth": http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/57091/title/Odds_are,_its_wrong?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook&utm_content=feat

And you know why people are listening to Jenny McCarthy even though she's speaking against science? Because she MAKES SENSE to a lot of people with a lot of questions who are sick of being told to shut up and trust "scientific Truth": http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-mccarthy/whos-afraid-of-the-truth_b_490918.html

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tim's New CD--listen online

http://mistertimdotcom.com/music/vocality-promo

You can listen to it all here.

This is a sampler cd of all of Tim's projects, so there is a LOT of variety here. A great deal of what you hear was Tim's voice. Many of Tim's compositions, all his arrangements. His concepts for the groups. He auditioned everyone and is music director of all these songs. He did all the producing, recording, all the editing, all the mixing, and sat in on the mastering. He's doing the artwork designs for the CD now.

In other words, this is a demo of Tim's music skills--all of them: music directing, composing, arranging, engineering, producing, performing, etc.

Have a listen.

I _love_ "Paint the Town Red" (Peter's solo is great!), which Tim wrote. I have to laugh, though. While it crossed my mind when I was single that I might someday marry a musician, I thought for sure I'd marry a scientist. Marry a ROCK singer/songwriter never even crossed my mind. I'm pretty sure my mom won't like that track, actually. It's that kind of rock.

Tim's performance on "Good Luck Charm" just makes me melt (and there's not many songs or performances that do that). I listen to the song over and over just because it shows off how gorgeous Tim's voice is. He sings all the parts on that one. I think he actually trumped Elvis on this one.

Loving his live looping song, "Sweet Dreams", which is a mashup of a bunch of covers, but I think he did it really skillfully and it's a lot of fun.

The only song I'm sad didn't make it was "Perhaps". I think that one will hit the website next week sometime--it's REALLY AMAZING.

Did I just read that?

from Denver's Craigslist today: "HOUSE CLEANER LOOKING FOR COSTUMERS - (anywhere) domestic gigs"


I wonder if they show up as superheroes? Monsters? Pirates? I think I'd like a crew of Pirates to come clean my house. That would be cool.

I wonder how many costumers it takes to outfit a whole cleaning crew? You'd think one would be enough.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Invented a new recipe: Butterscotch Frosting.

The kids wanted frosting on their donuts today, so I pulled out the butterscotch chips.

I  mixed half a bag of butterscotch chips with 2 tsp of margarine and microwaved them for 45 seconds, stirred, and then zapped them for about 30 seconds more and stirred again. Then I threw a couple cups of powdered sugar and 1/4 c softened margarine into the kitchenaid, added the dough-like butterscotch concoction, and whipped it all together. I added a couple tablespoons of milk to get it to the right consistency, and it was PERFECT frosting.

Made for yummy donuts, too. We frosted them while they were hot, and the frosting set up just like storebought donut frosting does.

I'm sorry I can't post a more accurate recipe. It was a case of "pour some of this, now pour some of that" without any measuring at all.

But it was WELL worth it--really yummy result.

For School this week:

Caleb, on his own, decided to write a version of a Christmas Carol using characters from his favorite website, homestarrunner.com.   It's really good.

Anda has, of her own accord, delved into both painting and computer game design.

Daniel is reading and writing better than before, and is working on representational painting.

Benji has become enamored with subtraction, so he's doing a lot of that (he's only 2, so that's pretty cool). He also did Caleb's vocabulary assignment--filling in missing letters. I had to tell him which letter to find, but he typed it by himself. He also has given up on the letter names and now calls them by their sounds.

Nathanael (14 months old today) can now accurately hit a real nail with a real hammer, and he taught himself how to use the nintendo controller--he plays pacman world 2 rather well for someone who comprehends games not at all. It's cute to see Pacman wandering around doing what a 14 month old would do in a cartoon world--lots of jumping, lots of wandering. Still, for a kid who doesn't speak clearly yet and who still crawls when he wants to go fast, I'd say that's not too shabby.

All of the kids are elated at the newest find in our boxes: books. They have been reading and reading and reading some more. Even Nathanael is walking around with books a good portion of the day.

Oh, and the kids consented to do what I suggested for them, too, but they had to squeeze it in between their own projects.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Did I just read that?


I guess "the parsnip of Longmont" didn't sound right, but you'd think they'd get the picture to match the text one way or another!

(This was an ad at the bottom of a news article: http://www.timescall.com/news_story.asp?ID=21125)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Experience

Tim came  home from a small gig a few days ago without that energy that he has when a show goes well. I always ask, "How'd it go?" anyway, so I did.

"Awful," he answered, but not sadly. And, matter-of-factly, he gave me the rundown: it was an open mic night, so not ideal sound (adequate, but the sound at those things is always set up for bands, which is NOT ideal for vocalists. Period. Ever.), people in the audience weren't paying attention, public sound check that intimidated some of his vocalists to the point of paralyzing them, people were "hovering" while Tim worked (standing around him in the way, asking him questions about non-related things, but not helping and seemingly unaware that he's WORKING--it's one of my and his pet peeves about vocalists. They seem to think set up happens by magic, and that Tim should be hanging out with them socializing, eating, and helping them get over their nerves--and they get after him for being focused instead of nice and social.), the performance was without energy--which made it feel like it was dragging, and individual performers just really didn't do their jobs (ranging from showing up dressed wrong having not read the instruction emails to singing the wrong notes to getting the tempos wrong, etc). It was bad enough that the singers apologized to Tim afterward, and bad enough that he was stern with them afterward (which he rarely needs to be because performers generally know when they had a bad show and generally can fix it with notes but not sternness).

Anyway, it was what we call "one of THOSE." They happen to everyone, regardless of how well-prepared, talented, or experienced a group is.

I said to Tim, "That's too bad. Sorry that happened."

He got this huge grin on his face and said, "I'm not."

"You're not sorry?" I said.

"No," Tim said. "Because this is how they get experience, and experience is what makes you a good performer."

That really struck me.

I remembered when I was an undergraduate in a young adult ward, and I noticed that there was just "something" about returned sister missionaries and realized that if I wanted that "something", I had to go on a mission.

And I know that "something" about experienced performers that sets them apart, both on and off stage. You can't get that without experience--and really, you learn more from the bad shows, the less-than-ideal setups, the mediocre-to-terrible sound reinforcement, the nobody-is-paying-attention times than you can ever learn from a long string of good shows in good theaters with large appreciative audiences. In short, it's learning how to deal with the problems that makes the difference. It's learning how to take the circumstances you've been given and go and provide a high-quality performance anyway. It's learning how to pull that energy and vibrance from within yourself instead of feeding off the audience--so you can give them a great experience no matter if they are energetic or energy suckers. It's learning how to recover from mistakes, not letting one flaw throw the whole show off. It's learning how to sing "a" right note even when you can't remember (or can't find) "the" right note. It's learning how to carry yourself on stage so that nobody can tell if you don't remember where you're supposed to be now. It's learning how to read and follow the instructions, and how to dress so that you look good no matter what shape and size you are, and how to carry yourself so that it doesn't matter what you're wearing. It's learning how to fill the stage and balance it no matter where and how everyone else is moving (or not moving or supposed to be moving) and no matter what shape the stage is. It's learning how to tune in to the audience while still paying attention to what the other performers are doing, what you yourself are doing, and what the tech is doing. It's learning how to talk to tech guys so you get what you need--and having enough shows under your belt to know what you need--in a tech mix. It's learning how to do that song AGAIN and still make it fresh for the audience. You learn to be stubborn about some things, and flexible about almost everything, and adaptable, and to not make YOUR performance determined by your circumstances or other people's performances--while still making everyone else's jobs on stage easier.

 In short, it's experience.

And you don't gain experience when everything goes well.

It made me start thinking about the fact that God sent us here to gain experience. And I can now see more clearly that life is like performing in that way--you don't get experience from everything going smoothly. You gain experience when things go wrong and you learn how to deal with them and do your job anyway.

Just like returned sister missionaries have a "something" about them that I wanted when I was 19, some old women have  a "something" about them--a beauty, calmness, nobility, ...it's hard to pinpoint or verbalize. It's just that "something" that makes them wonderful. I want that. And now I'm beginning to think they get that not by doing the easy, calm things, but by successfully weathering the storms of life.

In short, by experience.

So perhaps I should take a cue from Tim and stop wasting energy being sorry when things go wrong and instead embrace it because that's how I get experience--and experience makes all the difference.

LDS E-Books

I was looking for a copy of this book online: http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8865-1-4828-2,00.html

and I found it quite easily on the Church's website. It's one of the better books I've read in a long time--well written, well organized, a great reference (and yes, I do read a lot of reference books for fun).

Anyway, the thing that struck me is that the Church really "gets" what ebooks should be about. You can download the book in two different accessibility formats, which are clearly spelled out and the links placed at the TOP of the page (easy to find). Plus you can download the whole book. Or you can get it chapter by chapter in html, pdf, or mp3 format.

That is a perfect e-book! Accessible without a reader (but you could use it with, too). Accessible for people with disabilities (and who want to listen while driving). Accessible for people with all levels of computer functionality.  Easy to get, easy to read--and not just by the tech-savvy, or those who can afford a $400 ebook, or those who can buy software and texts. Plus you can read it online, share it on facebook (or 226 other sites), email it to someone (in whole or in part). That's how it should be.

It's a model the publishing industry might consider taking note of. I understand that bunches of people want (and need) to make their livings using specialized skills in publishing. But I'm beginning to wonder if the world wouldn't benefit from a YouTube for reader/writers, with ebooks following the church's format--easy to access, easy to read, easy to share. I know there are lots of places out there that claim to be that, but they are all caught up in getting you published officially, and that's a turn-off to me. What I'm talking about it an e-book clearinghouse for ALL writers, just like YouTube is a video clearinghouse for all movie makers, who use it for many many reasons. Did it replace "real" movies? NO. I'm not talking about replacing "real" publishing. Just talking about a place where writers can dump their stuff--for their families to read, for their friends to read, where things can be rated and highlighted by the staff or community. You know, like we post our videos of our kids on YouTube so Grandma can see, not so we can get famous.

It's probably already out there, but none of the writers I know are using it--so....how do we do this?

Any programmers willing to take on this one and make me a YouBooks?