I took a deep breath. The smell of new electronics hung in the air, giving me some inspiration. My fingers reached down. A modern synth-string sound emanated from the studio speakers. Yes, modern, and yet the strings had a certain sizzle that spoke of the late 1970s. I had spent over an hour getting the sound just how I wanted it.
I listened closely, with my body as much as my ears.
My fingers changed position on their own, so I had a G in the bass. My left hand was also playing a D, with a Bb, D, F and A in the right hand. The smoldering G minor 9th chord just oozed that downtown, cool jazzy feeling. You know the one.
I shifted, without thinking to B Major 7. Yeah, a quick pivot on the Bb/A#. It felt right, and better yet, with that sizzling string sound, it sounded right, even if very dissonant. Very, very dissonant.
I walked around the house humming. It wasn’t a song known to anyone, just something I was improvising without thinking. I turned to the dog.
“Are you ready to go out, is that why you do shout? With gnarly little woof, you need to get out, from under the roof?” I sang this improvised ditty and the dog got excited. It knew “Out” and that’s all he cared about. It didn’t matter how awful the words or melody or voice were, there was a walk to be had.
I had been humming and singing for days. At work I had to force myself to talk to coworkers instead of sing. My tendency when I opened my mouth was to sing, so I was very careful. I mean, even if it wasn’t weird, I realize I don’t have the greatest singing voice around.
At last, Friday came. I sat down and started playing the piano as soon as I could. Later, I turned on my electronics and music computer. All of those improvised songs were gone, but it didn’t matter. A new one soon came up. I worked the entire weekend on it and had a finished recording on Sunday evening.
Back at work on Monday, I didn’t even have to think about talking. Singing an answer would have felt so wrong. Right? Continue reading →
Years ago, when I was just starting out, I was sitting in a training room with a few other people working towards being Air Traffic Controllers. A few of us were talking about the hardest class we had in college. Depending on the person, it could have been Differential Equations, Fluid Dynamics, Economics or even English Composition. A little way into it, a fellow ATC trainee came over and joined in.
“You guys are a bunch of wimps,” he said. “I took a few college courses and thought they were easy. In the army, now, we had these week long training courses were we had to make our way through 500 page books. It was very intense.”
“I’m sure it was intense,” I said at the time. “However, it’s different.”
“How so?” he asked.
To tell the truth, I really could put my finger on it. But it did feel wrong equating how to do specific task with senior level quantum mechanics. Continue reading →
Are you and engineer? Do you work at a high end energy company? If so, can you try this for me (it won’t cost too many millions…) and let me know how it works?
Have you ever passed by a windmill farm and noticed several of them not running even thought there was a stiff wind? One problem with wind-power is that it generates electricity when there is wind, not when there is demand. Continue reading →
I had lived in New Hampshire for a little over a year. I was having job issues and wasn’t sure what was happening in the near term. I took walks and they became longer and longer every day.
One day as I was walking through the woods I heard an awful, pitiful cry. A large white pine was straight in front of my, the trail turn as it reached it. High above the trail there was a large bird on a branch with another large bird a bit above it on another branch. I couldn’t tell what they were, but my thought was immature bald eagles. They were huge. Between the two birds was a squirrel. The squirrel was screaming at the birds. He obviously wasn’t ready to be bird food quite yet. As i approached one of the birds flew off. Not wanting to upset the balance of nature I quickly walked on. For the next few months I looked for that bird every time I walked by that tree. After two or three months I moved and have never been back to that trail (moved to a different part of the same town). Continue reading →
So, why does time flow in one direction only, why doesn’t it go the other way? There is nothing in the equations that describe how the universe works that says time has to have an arrow. Typically what is time’s arrow is justified by cause and effect and by the lack of reversibility.
You drop a plate on the floor and it shatters. The plate hitting the floor is the cause of the shattering, the plate falling is the cause of it hitting the floor and a combination of you dropping it and gravity is the cause of it falling. Cause and effect and the idea that it can’t go backwards gives time its direction. The “flowing backwards” part, you know, the plate spontaneously reassembling and jumping up to your hand, in physics is part of entropy. The universe has a tendency to become more random, less structured. It can be reversed in a location by adding energy, but you can’t add anything to the Universe as a whole, so entropy increases, i.e., time marches on.
A few years back I wrote a handful of strange prog-rock tunes. I had been composing classical music for years and was doing a switch-over to more popular music. I played some tunes for a friend. She gave me a weird look and asked, “Who’s your target audience?” What? I wrote the music I wanted to hear.
“Fine,” she said. “If you want to go on writing music for yourself and playing it for friends and family the rest of your life, OK. If you want to go beyond that you need to define a target audience. You need to study the music they listen to and write something like that.”
The same thing happened when I started cranking out more fiction. Who is the target audience? What genre are you in? OK, after writing The Fireborn, which is an urban fantasy, I read a lot of urban fantasy. Hmm. I like some, some I don’t and some is OK, but none of it is anything like The Fireborn. The Fireborn is sort of like if Douglas Adams decided to write an Indiana Jones story in Dirk Gently’s universe and then had it rewritten by Stephen King. I’m not saying it’s of the caliber of their stories, I’m saying that is where it would fit in the Universe of books. So what is that called and who writes like that? Continue reading →
My post was called “How Did You Every Think of That?” Have you ever imagined that you are a famous author and an interviewer asks that age old question about your current work? I find that it is a great exercise, to actually think of were all of the elements came from. You see, most stories, and blog posts for that matter, leap into my head unbidden, forming themselves whole and complete, kind of like Athena from the head of Zeus. But how did they actually get there? It isn’t foolproof, but sometimes thinking about how I came up with the idea for a story, poem, blog post or other piece of writing helps me create a new one.
Darn, I just told you the important take away from that two year old post! Oh well, go back and read it anyway! And go to Diane’s Link Party and read other people’s blog memories! (Click here for Link-Up)
OK, we are a month into 2016. Time to be honest – when was the last time you accidentally used “2015”? Funny thing. For me the answer is infinite since I moved to 2016 on January 1. And I changed to 2015 on Jan 1 of last year. What is so amazing is that before 2015 it usually took me at least two months to get the year correct. Sometimes by the time I finally got the year figured out, the next year had begun. But for some reason my brain changed so this year thing isn’t a problem.
Over the years I’ve continued to learn new things, see old things in a totally different way, lose habits and gain habits. My brain has changed, and despite my age, not always for the worse. Sometimes, like with that year thing, it is for the better. At work I’ve had to learn new things lately and I’ve usually succeeded in such a way that the system experts don’t realize i just picked it up, sometimes even making comments to me about others’ grasp of the subject. I’ve always been a quick study, so that’s not new, but it shows that, yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Continue reading →
Climbing the ladder to Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park, mid 1970’s
(Originally posted 20 November 2013 – almost exactly 2 years ago)
Back in the murky time BC (Before (personal) Computers) my family made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Discover America”. Just like the Brady Bunch we all piled into the car and headed west. Of course we piled into a Chrysler “that’s as big as a whale” instead of a station wagon, but it was the same concept.
We hit all of the important spots like Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood. I had the time of my young life. What could be better than going from watching the filming of a game show one day to standing barefoot in the snow on a high mountain pass just a few days later? Desserts, beaches, huge trees, soaring mountains, waterfalls, geysers and more: everything was just enchanting. Ah, the best of times. Not a problem or care in the world.