I used to think that if I went travelling for a few months, I’d get the travel bug out of my system, but I hate staying in one place. It’s like saying you can get music out of your system if only you played it 24/7 for a week straight.
So I started to feel stuck, like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
“Stop running from your problems,” my mom says.
“I’m not running,” I say.
We have had this conversation a million times, where my friends are too fake to tell me the truth about how much I suck.
“Stop complaining about things that people can’t change,” I say. “No one is perfect.”
I wasn’t always a pescatarian. I’ve stopped eating meat for probably seven years now, for a slew of reasons. This is something I’m not very vocal about, but people catch on and ask the following questions, without fail:
“How long have you been vegetari–er–pescatarian?”
“Do you eat eggs?”
In the past year or so, I’ve noticed that people are less surprised at my alternative diet.
If you are trying to make a social change, here are a few things I’ve noticed.
There’s something intriguing about creating an idea quick and dirty from scratch. That’s why I’m a fan of hackathons: you get 24 hours to create a project about anything.
The most boring hackathon I have ever attended was when a bunch of doctors sat around and ate finger biscuits while they chatted about their patients’ problems — for goodness sakes, if no one is stressed, then it’s not a true hackathon.
I’ve heard from about fifty different doctors now that if you create a ‘physical activity tracking app’, you will “solve diabetes” or “decrease obesity” or some other sort of magic trick. Hi, can you google “fitbit”?
Doctors tell you about the flaws in their patients’ treatments and conditions though, which are good for working with. For example, after a while, breast cancer survivors become too lazy to get screened again. Or, for some tests, the length of time between getting screened and getting results is ridiculous. We put health science people together with engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs, at our hackathon, and got some great projects.
So, a hackathon is about getting the right people in the same room together and giving them the right tools to achieve a goal the dirty way. In music terms, this is like jamming in someone’s garage and coming up with a great song just because you were in the right place at the right time.
I put together a FAQ about organizing a hackathon, focused on logistics, which will give you a peek into the effort that goes towards a large-scale hackathon!
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One evening after work, I wander into the new Tom Lee store that I see from my office everyday and slip into the fancy glass room that’s filled with acoustic pianos. No one pays attention to me in my t-shirt and jeans.
I play cadences on pianos that I pass by, until I stop at one to play for a short while.
“Can I help you find something?”
“No, I’m just looking,” I say, gesturing with my chin. “Baby grands.”
“You are obviously pretty good,” he says. “That was, you know, Liszt.”
I nod. I didn’t know that was Liszt. I thought I got lucky pressing the keys.
He gestures to another piano nearby — which happens to be a cheaper Steinway brand. I play it for a little bit and realize the keys are too light.
“Want to play a Steinway?”
He walks over towards one and pulls out the bench, like at a restaurant. How do I get rid of him?
Being alone for my birthday stresses me out. This realization is new, because once upon a time, I used to crave precious alone time. My family is away and my best friends are at work but I promise that your girl is not whining for a babysitter.
I look for activities that don’t involve being alone (and sad) at home watching movies.
Thinking about my dad, for example, is an activity that makes me sad in the end, but I don’t want to tell myself to not think about him. But I know if I’m alone then it will come up.
I don’t want to be dependent on anything for my own happiness, but right now, I need to be constantly focused on an activity. It’s like if you’re performing classical music onstage, and the audience is distracting. You do anything to ignore the audience because it’s irrelevant to delivering your music; you play Chopin the same way whether the audience is asleep or humming along.
“Don’t worry,” a buddy says. “We’ll do something on your birthday. So you won’t be alone.”
“If you forget,” I say, “I’ll be very sad.”
But I’m pretty sure he will forget, because that’s how he is.
I’m getting a new fridge because my old one started leaking.
What do my broken fridge and piano practice have in common? Let me explain.
We push the fridge out of the cabinet and I’m trying to disconnect the water line with a wrench. Am I supposed to twist the top or bottom part? I don’t know but I try both and neither work.
“Get me pliers!” I shout.
My sister hands me the needlenose pliers and for goodness’ sake even I know that’s not what needlenose pliers are for.
So I’m using a wrench to twist the nut–it fits around the nut but it won’t move at all, solid like if you tried to collapse a wall with your body.
Shit, I’m not strong enough.
I’ve seen my dad twist things and it looked so simple.
So I’m just standing around feeling bad about myself because the nut didn’t even wiggle a little.
Later, the handyman comes, and uses these large pliers that I’ve seen my dad use, to twist the nut. It comes loose in seconds.
Oh, I think to myself, I just needed the right pliers, not superhuman strength.
How many times have we been using a wrench to twist at problems when all we needed was the right pliers?
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Math’s music recordings have great sound quality despite zero post-processing.
In comparison, I’ve been recording music on an iPhone mic and processing with Adobe Audition. The results aren’t out of this world, but it gets the point across, as the iPhone + Adobe Suite workflow tends to do (Have I told you about my photography in Asia? iPhone photos + Photoshop).
Back home in Montreal, he shows me his supposedly simple (and ghetto) recording process: a microphone plugged into a USB audio interface, and recording the music twice (DI & MIC). On the first take, DI is plugged into the right input with the mic into the left; on the second take, switch inputs. Then he combines the two takes using Reaper.
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