Audio

Iris (Electronic Arrangement)

Two days ago, I shared my seven-year-old Iris arrangement. As a bonus track, here’s what happens when you spend the night messing around with GarageBand’s seemingly endless synthesizer settings.

Audio

Iris (Instrumental Arrangement)

Sure, I work for Automattic now, but when I was in college, I actually wanted to be a music teacher. While pursuing my degree in music education at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, I took an instrumental arranging course and one of my assignments was to arrange a pop song for an entirely instrumental group. I choose Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls, and since then, my arrangement was been played regularly by the university’s MIDI Ensemble (which I have volunteered in as a coach since graduation).

There are so many great arrangements and covers on Soundcloud, that I figured I might as well dig through my old school archives and finally put it somewhere more appropriate than a dusty CD in the corner of closet. So, without further chatter, here’s my 2006 arrangement of Iris for flute and other stuff, mechanically performed by the heartless instruments of GarageBand.

New Theme: Superhero

I have been meaning to find a new change of clothes for this blog, which is good, since I instantly fell in love with Superhero by Oscar Winner Theme Wrangler Michael Cain.

There are a few things that I don’t like about the stock theme, but I love a theme that encourages me to alter it, which is probably why I didn’t really feel at home with Twenty Twelve. Superhero has a lovely fixed header, one which stays at the top of the browser no matter how far you scroll down, but fixed headers make me claustrophobic, so I fixed (or un-fixed) the header with this bit thanks to the Custom Design upgrade:


#masthead-wrap {
position: absolute;
}

You might also notice that Superhero has a prominent red and yellow accent color scheme, which really aren’t my favorite colors. Superhero will have support for Custom Colors eventually, but until then, changing colors is just a matter of identifying the colors, finding them in the theme’s CSS, and copying and pasting the sections with new colors into Custom Design’s CSS tab or the shiny new Customizer. That was easy, especially with the Customizer, but finding colors on the opposite end of the spectrum which complemented each other just as well as the default red and yellow was what took the longest.

With the colors set, it was time for some fonts. You may recognize my two best font friends, Orbitron for the title and Ubuntu for the headings. Since Open Sans is not yet available in Custom Design, I went with Proxima Nova for the body text instead.

So, there you have it, a new theme which should stick around for a few months. To celebrate, here’s Superhero from Trocadero.

Non-Distracting Distractions

I have been working on a presentation of sorts regarding distractions as an essential part of a daily workflow, and it occurred to me that I might as well just share it with everyone, so please enjoy my ramblings.

I’m not what people would call a “show off” in my job as a Happiness Engineer (customer service) for Automattic (primarily WordPress.com), but this is kind of important for the overall discussion, so let’s just say that I do a comparatively large amount of work. Some of my colleagues jokingly call me a machine, but I am far from that. I have tried plenty of times to sit down for 8 hours a day and do absolutely nothing but my work with no distractions, but I always accomplish much less than my average, and I’m often incredibly frustrated by the time I’m done. I’m not a machine, I’m a human, and I need distractions.

In my non-scientific opinion, there are two types of distractions. Those which provide a short and meaningful escape from the rigorous routine of the day and may last a few minutes or seconds, but never demand continued attention, and those which I refer to as “traps,” which provide a captivating escape that draws you into a seemingly never-ending web. Two perfect example of traps are YouTube and Wikipedia. Sure, you meant to only watch one five-minute video on YouTube, but with so much more content at your fingertips, how could you not spend just a few more minutes there? And, don’t get me started on Wikipedia’s famous in-article links. I just wanted to learn a bit about the early history of the violin, but now I know everything about the history of Baroque music, and I still can’t sleep.

When utilized properly, distractions are an important part of concentration. Think of the bells of a monastery, the brief respite of tea time, and the music of a string quartet. Distractions have been with us throughout the centuries, yet we don’t regard these with the same disdain that we regard distractions today. Distractions simply provide a way for you to re-focus your mind and to avoid traps when your mind wanders.

So, what are my distractions? When I’m feeling unfocused in an average work day, I don’t fight a losing battle. I give in, but I avoid traps. If I need just a brief break from what I’m doing to collect my thoughts and break through the “frustration fluff,” I’ll go to The Verge or Quartz, not to read, but to collect articles of interest for later reading via Instapaper. If I need more, I’ll put on some music from iTunes or Spotify while I work. Yes, music is a distraction, think about it. If I still need more and just can’t keep my head from succumbing to the frustration of the day’s routine, I’ll grab my iPad and bring up a show from my childhood via Netflix.

Yes, sometimes I need to watch TV while I work to keep my productivity up. When I’m that far into the frustration of the routine, I could either just stare at the screen and get nothing done (see comments regarding “machine” above), or have something playing in the background that can stimulate my brain while waiting for pages to load. As a reminder to the nay-sayers, “I do a comparatively large amount of work.” If you’re curious, this year’s viewing has so far been Transformers.

With all of that said, what I do may not work for you. I have certainly had my fair share of disapproving looks when I mention my reliance on TV for productivity, but it works for me. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a musical family and did most of my homework while watching reruns of Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, and Highlander, but music and TV are my distraction bread and butter. Without them, I’m just another machine.

We aren’t machines, we’re humans, and we need distractions. I strongly encourage you to experiment with distractions in your workflow, but please avoid traps. You may find that all you need for a huge productivity boost is a distraction or two to rejuvenate your mind and get you back on track.

Please Support my Wife’s Composition

My wife, Sarah, has recently received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have one of her original compositions featured on an album released by a semi-major record label. Of course, with the way things work these days, this won’t be free and we need your help.

If you support original music, or just want to say thanks for something I may have done for you in the past, please leave a pledge on my wife’s Kickstarter project for the recording. There are only 5 days left to pledge, and we’ll have to forfeit everything so far if we don’t reach our goal, so please drop on by as soon as you can!

Thank you!

The State vs. Thomas Light

So, last night I was doing research into bands that perform in character and stumbled across The Protomen. Long story short, I found my new favorite group.

To quote lead vocalist Panther, “At the time, we noticed a void in rock and roll. A hole that could only really be filled with grown men and women painting up like robots and playing some fierce and furious rock music based on a 1980s video game. We were fairly certain no one else was going to fill that hole. But, by god, it’s filled now. You can thank us later.”

Basically, they do rock operas based on the Mega Man series. Their style is very diverse, but somehow seems to meet every style that I like. This is The State vs. Thomas Light from Act 2: The Father of Death, which chronicles Dr. Wily’s rise to power. Excerpts from their latest album and a free download can be found at their site, and it can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon.

Video

The Thing: The Musical

This latest masterpiece from Jon and Al Kaplan¬†combines two of my favorite things, Swing and The Thing.¬†From the same geniuses who brought you Conan: The Musical and Predator: The Musical, here’s The Thing: The Musical.