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Monday, February 08, 2016

Follow up Following First Test in Piano Class

First test in the books and wait to see how I did on Wednesday.  Felt pretty good after we were done.   The first three questions on the test were playing the piano, identifying notes, and describing how we sit at the piano.  We also had to play our little tune we made up ourselves.  This all went well!

The written portion of the test was not bad either.  I feel like I aced the test.  The extra credit portion which was a timeline with names of periods, dates, and composers for the last four categories, well, I think I mixed up composers for the different periods.

After the written test, we were free to leave.  As I turned in my test I stopped to talk to our instructor to let her know that tomorrow I will finally have a tuned piano here at home.  That will be nice to have it tuned up and ready to play.

Before leaving, I did also practice scales a few times that we will need to use in class on Wednesday.  Overall, I feel satisfied with how I did on the test.  We will see on Wednesday how it turns out and how I did on the extra credit.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Viewing Recent Released Movies and Problems with DVDs that are Scratched

Picture of DVD with a PadlockI have been a Netflix customer for a number of years.  Primarily for the streaming service, but every once in a while there is that movie that I cannot get through the Netflix stream and then only have a few options on obtaining that recent released movie.

  1. Add the DVD option for Netflix.
  2. Go to the local video store.
  3. Pay to watch the recent release for 24 hours through Dish, iTunes, Amazon, etc.
  4. Go to the not so legal side of sites to watch the movies.
To this point, I have primarily targeted options one, two, and three above.  We have actually used option three a number of times through the past few years.  It is easy and quick to get that recent release and watch it when we want.  The problem is that usually just for that one movie it is easily $5.99 (or more) to rent that movie.  Paying for the convenience and so that whomever is selling it to you can give it to you is why they are so expensive.  

So, every now and then I get the idea to pay for DVD delivered to the home from Netflix.  Or, sometimes we get the idea to go to our local video store and pick up a DVD.  Sure, the prices are cheap to go to the local video store, but usually the recent movies are picked over.  Netflix has a descent selection of movies, but even those you have to wait for to get if they were just released.

OK, so why the post?  Yes, I was wondering the same thing about this point.  My point is why do we still have DVD or BlueRay discs?  Nothing is more frustrating than to get that perfect movie for movie night, pop it in the player, press PLAY, and 30 seconds into the movie it pauses... or it just stops playing... or jumps to the end of the movie.  Seriously?  We have a old DVD player and have not given any thought to buying a BlueRay device.  Why would we when it is frustrating to watch movies that pause, jump, or stop playing and get the same problems with BlueRay too?

Picture of character holding a reel of film.So the discs are easy to produce and easy to use.  Easy for the stores (video store, Netflix, etc.) to be able to distribute to their customers.  Bottom line is that the discs are easy to track.  It seems that other than going to the illegal area of streaming that it would be possible to distribute a code that would change each time the "disc" is rented to someone new that would allow that person to watch the video through a streaming service.  Thinking of Netflix, it seems this could be done with a code that is sent through email and entered on streaming device to watch the new release.  A one-time code that would allow access to the movie.

I have read numerous articles regarding Netflix and that they still have millions of customers that subscribe to their DVD service.  I understand that there are a lot of people that do not have Internet or only have means to watch movies on their physical player requiring a disc.  Or, maybe those individuals just like the old school way of watching movies. 

Netflix DVD membership has dropped to 5.3 million subscribers (see 4 Reasons Netflix DVD Rental Isn't Going Away) and that number will likely continue to drop.  I have not read anything about a new model of delivering new content from Netflix or other services other than what some are already doing with paying $5.99 or more to rent the movie.

For now, I will go back to streaming only from Netflix and it will likely be a while before I get another DVD from a store either.  I will continue to rent recent releases from iTunes, Amazon, or Dish. I will be interested to see how Netflix will work into their service to be able to watch those new releases without having to get DVDs.

I would love to hear your comments regarding your experiences with streaming new movies or trying to watch DVD or BlueRay movies.

Enjoy your streaming shows and movies....

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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Another Week Down of Piano and a Test Monday

Picture of our Piano at HomeWe have our first test in piano on Monday.  Wednesday, we spent the class period reviewing for the test.  The test will consist of demonstrating that we can play various notes that are called out, knowing the finger pattern for both hands, and being able to play a melody.  For extra credit, we will need to be able to give the history of the piano along with instruments created during various periods of time.  We should also be able to list composers for the different periods too.  Thus, I need to spend time today and tomorrow studying to make sure I can get those extra credit points.

Wednesday we did also spend time learning the major chords.  I do not have a problem with them at this point except for G major which is difficult to key.  I am trying to practice the chromatic scale daily and then also include practicing the major chords each day too.

We did schedule to have our piano tuned which will happen this week.  It will be easier to practice on our piano here at home with it actually in tune.  Not all keys are out of tune, but it does hurt the ears on those that are badly out of tune.  We are using the same person that tunes the pianos at Washburn and was recommended by my teacher.  Looking forward to having the tuning complete and be able to play with the right tune here at home.  I would not say having it out of tune has stopped me from playing here, but not sounding right has me wondering at times whether I am playing the chords correctly.

More updates after class Monday on how the test goes.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three Classes and One Full Week Done of Piano Class

Picture of Piano KeyboardI have finished the first full week of piano class.  Three classes and I certainly would not say that I can read music.  However, I am making headway in the art of reading music.  The book starts off easily getting us familiar with the keyboard and how we will eventually be reading music.  The digits of our left and right hand to use when reading the music.  Sure, it all makes sense now as we are only doing basic things on the piano.

Still, there are times when I am practicing at home, maybe making up my own tune on the piano (as encouraged by the book to learn the keyboard) where I forget for just a moment that I have no idea what I am doing on the piano.  I start to get into the rhythm of the piano and the tune I am pouring out from my fingers takes over... if only for a few seconds... but it feels and hears to my mind that I am playing a real tune.

I still have not tuned our piano at home though, so for it to be a tune, you know it has to be a badly out of tune.  There are some keys that make you cringe, but overall, it does not sound too bad.  Carrie and I were guessing the piano has not been tuned in over fifteen years through various moves before we received the piano and not played, it is in desperate need of tuning.

My piano teacher provided the name of a person in town who can tune our piano.  About two weeks have gone by since I got the name of the tuner from the teacher and I still have not called to schedule them to come out.  It is on my to do list to call and schedule them to be out to tune our piano.  Then, look out as I will finally be in tune here at home.  Another week or two and I believe we will be full in deep to reading music then too.  At least that's what I observe looking through the book to see what is coming up in future classes.

I am still working on remembering treble and bas clefs (see Studying, Piano Lessons, and Remembering Childhood Piano Practicing).  It takes me a while, but I can eventually get it.  Of course with practice I know that I will get faster at being able to read music.  Still, we have not started really reading notes in the class.  We are only looking at pages with numbers and notes, but the notes are not on a clef.  Again, I know eventually we will get there and eventually be reading music.  We have to get through this basic stuff first before we can start being able to play.

The class provides extra credit if we go to events in or around Topeka.  Friday night, Carrie and I had the opportunity to go to a recital for a friend.  She sang soprano accompanied by a piano, flute, and other soloists all at first times.  Primarily it was our friend (singing) and piano accompaniment.  It was a wonderful performance.  We were able to heard another friend of ours who sings opera and they sang a piece where he joined in too.  Wonderful evening of music!  To think I get to use that for extra credit now in my class too.  Works out nicely!

Carrie and I talked afterwards that we need to try and go to a local musical event a few times a year.  I would like to attend operas or orchestra once or twice a year.  I remember when I was little, I would go to events throughout the year with my mom.  Of course when I was little, I did not really want to be at some of those events and rather be out playing.  Now that I am older, I want to expand on my musical knowledge or experiences.  So, Carrie and I are both going to watch for events we can attend and make it to a few throughout the year.  No, not only for extra credit in this class, but because we enjoy the music.

Still not any pictures, video, or sounds of my practicing at this point as no one wants to hear that now.  Our class is interesting as it is a full class and we all play aloud in the class.  The instructor has us turn our piano down to half volume, but still, it sounds like a train wreck when we all play wrong keys to start a scale.  Gradually though, we get better as we learn the process or notes.

I have slacked off since our Wednesday class on practicing, so I need to play a lot Sunday to make up for it.  In class on Monday, we will each play our own piece for the class.  It should be interesting as we make it up as we go, but are restricted to a certain set of keys.  We will simply make up the chords and the melody with the right hand.  We can take notes so we can duplicate our play on Monday in class.  I am thinking I will just wing it and act as though it is planned.

Picture of MusicAs we are about to begin our second full week of class, it still amazes me that I use to play the piano when I was little.  I remember bits and pieces as I read and while I find it exciting to play and for a brief few seconds feel as though I know what I am doing, I still feel as though I am only making noise.

I know it will all come together at some point.  At some point it will all make sense and I will be able to read music and make a sound that others want to hear.  That is my dream from taking this class and the ability to be able to sit down and read from sight a new piece of music so that it is recognizable to those listening.  With practice, I intend to be able to play a song, but I want to be able to sight read anything too.

Are you playing a new instrument or learning a new tool?  Share it with me in the comments sections.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Blab Blab Blab... A new Social Media Site to Check Out

Picture of Computer with 1's and 0's Coming out of the Screen

During the weekly #blogchat last week, a fellow #blogchat participant introduced me to site Blab.  Marc Miller introduced me to Blab by way of his blog posting back in October 2015.  Blab is still in beta, so it is still being tested.  I was intrigued as soon as I visited the the blog (Boomer Job Search with CareerSherpa and CareerPivot) and saw the demo of how Marc was using the Blab service.

At first glance of Blab, it appears to be a simple video chat.  With deeper investigation (and use) it is similar to Google Hangouts, but this was different in that anyone could tune in and watch the conversation.  Not only can anyone tune in and watch, but they can also chat with anyone in the "room".

I admit, I have not done a lot with Google Hangouts.  I have visited the site and participated in one or two Hangouts.  Although, usually when I have taken part in a Hangout, it was through a YouTube video where someone was doing a Google Hangouts and then broadcasting it via YouTube.  I think the last time I tried using Google Hangouts was in 2011 or 2012.  Sure, I see them from time-to-time when visiting various sites or when browsing #live streams on YouTube, but it has not been something I have been involved in at all.

From what I know of Google Hangouts, I remember it would allow up to ten people doing video chat.  No one else can join in on the call to watch those ten people chatting.  Only those ten people connected are able to video chat and see one another in the chat.  This is where I believe Blab is different.

Picture of Faces and People Talking with BalloonsBlab only allows for a maximum of four people to video chat at one time.  The difference is that anyone can tune into the Blab to watch and even interact with the "blabbers" in the chat.  A complete description of what the site is about can be found on their web site at

The site is currently in beta, but so far from what I can tell, it is working fine.  The site does only currently work with Firefox or Chrome.  It does not work with Internet Explorer or Safari.  I am hopeful as they build and develop the site that other browsers will work with the site too.  Possibly the HTML engine of the two browsers they have selected that allow for the video chat to work where IE and Safari do not allow for it to happen.  Regardless, to gain popularity I hope that other sites can be used too.

The site went to beta back over the summer of 2015 as indicated on the About Blab page.  It appears they have had some good publicity from presidential post debates as well as Big Brother chats.  Yes, the first time I hear about it was during a weekly #blogchat when a fellow chatter mentioned it to me.

I am certainly interested in what the site is about.  I see the potential for a lot of events.  No, not necessary me doing them at this point, but looking through the various categories, it already appears to be catching on to TV and radio hosts to allow interaction for their shows.

Interesting point that Marc Miller suggested in his Blab chat, what it can be used for office hours for faculty.  The site allows anyone to jump into the video chat and the entire class, or anyone interested, and that has the link to the video chat, can tune in and take part.  They can take part by jumping into an open seat (remember there are four spots to video chat) or they can take part in the chat.

They have an app for Apple and imagine if it continues to grow there will be apps for other mobile devices too.  Certainly a interesting concept they have put on the web.  I would never have known  about it until the #blogchat last week.

What cool and different sites to you visit each week that you are not sure anyone else knows about?  Feel free to share in the comments or send me a tweet.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Found Addiction are YouTube Channels of Sailors

Picture of YouTube Logo from YouTubeI was one of those that would watch YouTube every now and again.  I had a few feeds that I subscribed to on YouTube, but really, I did not do a whole lot with the feeds that I followed.  That all all changed back in November of this last year.  I was not looking for anything in particular, I was just browsing around the Internet.

It started out as searching for the ocean, beaches, etc., and then turned into watching people sail.  Turns out, there are a lot of people that have given up their lives on land (for the most part) and their home is a sail boat.  Most of them record weekly or bi-weekly broadcasts of their adventures.  They actually make money by those watching their videos and then people can send them money too.

The site that almost everyone uses is called Patreon.  Until coming across these sailors, I had not heard of Patreon before.  Low and behold, there are a lot of people using it as almost all of the people I am following use this site.  No, I have not donated any money yet, but it is a interesting concept.  Basically, followers of a particular person donate money for each time that site creates an update.  Whether that is a video, blog post, etc., the patrons (see what happened there... Patreon's) commit via the site to pay the poster $1, $5, and up for each new item posted.

I started off with one particular channel that I basically watched all of their videos in one evening.  There were a lot, but I was addicted.  After finishing watching the entire season, I searched for other YouTube sites and quickly found there are a lot of people doing this same thing.

I think in all the cases of the videos that I am following on a regular basis, all of them have in fact quit their jobs and sail full time.  They sold their homes for a sail boat.  At least one of the videos I follow, they say how scary it was to sell their home and leave what they knew to only sail.  Now, they would not give it up for anything.  Of course, the other thing that many of these adventurers also gave up was their family and friends that they left behind.  A few of them are able to have their family meet up with them on their adventures of the wild blue sea, but this has been a rare occurrence.

So, you might be curious which sea adventurers I am following.  They include the following no particular order except for the first one which was the first one I started following:

These are all like TV shows where they document each week what has happened for the previous week or two.  Some (i.e. Shaun Sailing) only post every other week while others (I think most of the others) post every week.

Not only are the videos of where they are beautiful, but I get swept away with the thought of leaving everything to go be on the wide open ocean.  Being on the ocean in the middle of the night with no one around for miles and miles... Makes me wonder how I would feel in that situation.  When I see a notice come through via YouTube or email that a update is available for one of these channels, I get excited and cannot wait to view their latest adventure.  

I would like to thank the above linked video bloggers for providing videos of their adventures.  I look forward to future adventures. Don't worry, I do not plan to sell everything and become an adventurer on the open ocean.  

What are your favorite YouTube channels to follow?  Do you have feeds that you have to watch as soon as they are released?  Please share them in the comments or send me a Tweet about your favorites.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Studying, Piano Lessons, and Remembering Childhood Piano Practicing

Picture of Book Piano Lab an Introduction to Class Piano
Text Book for Piano Class
I have enrolled in a piano class this semester.  We recently received the piano from Carries' parents.  It is very similar to the piano I used when I was young.

The book we are using in the class is the "PianoLab: An Introduction to Class Piano".  I almost forgot I had to order the book as I had checked on the class before the semester started, but did not see the book listed.  I checked again this past weekend and realized I could find the book listed under "Find My Books" of our campus portal.  Sure enough, there was the book listed for the class.  A few short Amazon searches and we had a book in-route to our house for class that started Wednesday night.

When I was young, I took piano for many years.  I took the Suzuki method of piano.  I started in grade school and from what I remember I took it all the way through junior high.  In fact, when Carrie asked me how long I took lessons, I think I told her it was for 12 years.  That might have been an exaggeration... it just felt like it went on forever.  With the Suzuki style of piano, I did not learn to read any music.  It was all memorization.  Well, at least through the first couple of years of lessons.  I think at some point, the lessons did try and teach us to read music, but being a kid, it was not something I was too interested in learning.

Mom and I had a lot of "fun" learning new pieces.  Of course, she struggled to get me to practice and then we struggled through my memorization of the piece.  I remember my dad being in the family room watching TV while mom and I struggled through lessons for the night.  I am sure dad enjoyed hearing the piano played while he was trying to watch TV.  My mom recalls at a summer workshop that I was attending that the teachers finally realized after years of my taking lessons that I could not read music.  I think I blocked that out as I do not remember it at all... or the ability to read music!

Image of Treble and Bas ClefSo, I have started this new class.  We had our first class, as I mentioned, on Wednesday night.  We are starting with the basics.  Posture, hands, keys, how the peddles work, and much more.  This was all on our first night of class.  We have homework to do for our next class Monday night.  It did bring back memories of some of the Saturday morning workshops with my piano teacher when I was little. Memories of going through treble and bass and trying to memorize the lines and spaces.  Memories of the "Every Good Boy Does Fine" or Good Boys Do Fine Always" to help you remember those lines and spaces on the treble and bass clef.  Ah, the memories when I was young and not caring whether I learned it or not.  Not, the goal is to learn how to read music and then be able to sit down and play at a piano from any book that I pick up.  Now, I am not saying I want to be able to sit down and play perfectly as I recognize that it takes practice to be able to play a song; I would like to be able to simply sit down and play a song with both hands from start to finish.

When asked in class about treble or bass clef, yeah, I could not remember the notes each represented. I could though recall where Middle C was located. So that was good to know I at least remembered that much from my young years taking piano.  Everything else from those early years, while it  sounded familiar, were no more clicking in class Wednesday night then they did when I was in lessons years ago.

Picture of Music StaffThe intent this weekend is to spend about two hours studying for class Monday night.  Learn the treble and bass clef well enough to be able to look at the staff and recognize the individual notes.  I think I can handle that without too much trouble. After all, I do not want to embarrass myself in class on Monday when we are asked to go to the board and mark the notes.  I did leave my notes from class at the office, so I will need to stop by the office to pick those up and make sure I cover everything.  I also plan to sit down at the piano in our house and try out a few of the items we did in class Wednesday.

Wish me luck in my class and maybe in a future update there will be a sample of what I am playing.  I am excited to be taking lessons and I want to make the most of this class.

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