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  • Reply to: 53-Year-Old Speed Skater Attempts to Make US Olympic Team   36 weeks 3 days ago

    ... but I don't have your eye for skating form. That's an interesting observation and I'll have to try to watch more closely. Joey Cheek is big on skaters keeping their hips level and steady and getting pressure all the way through every push, which seems like another good thing to work on during casual skating.

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  • Reply to: Crowd-Sourced Color Names by XKCD   36 weeks 4 days ago

    I wonder if -ish entered our language through French invasions or Germanic ones? In the past I have wondered why it's witzig (funny ha ha) but komisch (funny peculiar), and eifersuchtig but neidisch (both jealous). I had assumed that words like English and Englisch evolved in parallel directly from Germanic roots, but I guess it's always possible we came to use it via the French or Latin. Here's a brief mention in a book I'd like to know all the contents of without reading. 

    As with most language or pronunciation oddities, they usually irk me until I find out how they evolved. "Tuscany" bugs the crap out of me. What's so hard about saying "Toscana"? I haven't looked it up but suspect Victorian Britain might be to blame on that one, along with many other insults. 

    Regarding manly men, I've seen an elderly gent walking along Peachtree Street wearing brightly colored suits. I loved the yellow one and told him so. He said "Wah thankyeh".  Sometimes he wears other boldly colored suits. I'm hoping it catches on. 

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  • Reply to: Inline Skating is a Good Workout   36 weeks 4 days ago

    Yes! Yes it is! Or you can simply make up your own ridiculous event, such as taking another shot at Smyrna to Anniston on the Silver Comet Trail. 

    The Winter Olympics are always a good reminder to me of the joys of skating (not winning, since I never really ever won anything, but how it feels when muscles, circulation and brain cells work again).

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  • Reply to: 53-Year-Old Speed Skater Attempts to Make US Olympic Team   36 weeks 4 days ago

    That's an inspiring video and story! Good for him. 

    It has always looked to me as if long track ice skaters pushed more backwards (or at least 45 degrees from the straight line of Eddy Workshop famed "Air D"), than inline skaters. Perhaps pushing backwards is more of an indoor inline thing due to all the turns? Maybe outdoor inliners have more stretches of straight road  on which to try to perfect the sideways push and heel-wheel-last technique.  Maybe there are fewer outdoor inliners so a larger percentage of them took the Eddy workshop at some point? 

    That big grassy bank in the video looks like heaven to me right now. 

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  • Reply to: Crowd-Sourced Color Names by XKCD   41 weeks 5 days ago

    That's a good explanation of Pantone colors and the problem of color matching. I should add that the xkcd survey was based on viewing and identifying HTML "hex triplets", which aren't part of any calibrated color system, something that the survey's author acknowledges. Color renditions can vary "due to different computer screen" as stated in many eBay auctions for inexpensive unbranded clothing, and his analysis did at least include looking for significant differences between LCD and (increasingly rare) CRT screen users.

    I remember your concerns about certain jersey buyers and "I can't wear <color>." It makes me wistful for the multihued 80s and early 90s. These days, it seems, all cars are some shade of grey, girly girls only wear pink, and manly men only wear camo.

    Btw, here's an interesting new take on color naming that I spotted some time after posting this article:

    The World Has Millions of Colors. Why Do We Only Name a Few?

    Their fundamental idea is that, in languages and cultures with few color names, there are more names for "the warm colors – reds, oranges and yellows" because the things that are most interesting, "people, animals, berries, fruits and so on," are likely to be those colors. The observation of more color names coming into languages as technology advances is explained by "improved ways of purifying pigments and making new ones" making it possible to "make objects that differ based only on color."

    Dictionaries say that the -ish suffix entered our language from French and can either create an adjective from a noun implying "belonging to," as in English, British, and Spanish; or it can create an adjective from another adjective with an implied sense of "somewhat" or "rather." Meanwhile, the -y suffix comes from the Germanic -ig, and carries a meaning of "full of." The first word that comes to mind is zaftig, which is Yiddish, from the German saftig, "juicy." (Saft is cognate to the English sap.)

    I've wondered to myself at times about the (not universal) English practice of assigning names ending with -y to places, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Tuscany, Normandy, Brittany, Saxony, and the like; or the colloquial Araby, or the rustic character in old movies who says "Virginny" and "Alabammy." Indeed, Germany is full of Germans and Saxony is full of Saxons. Normandy is full of Normans and Brittany is full of Bretons, which are close enough I guess, but Italy isn't really full of Itals and Hungary is actually full of Magyars. I'll leave Virginny for someone else to ponder.

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  • Reply to: Speedskating Season is Starting and During an Olympic Year it Matters   41 weeks 6 days ago

    So far, the NBC Olympic Channel has aired three two-hour-long packages each for the Heerenveen (NED) and Stavanger (NOR) World Cup meets. I'm catching up via DVR and still have the final day of Heerenveen to watch. Local guy Joey Cheek is the analyst/commentator and doing a good job of it; familiarity with the athletes, and good insights into skating technique and how they approach each event.

    Big stories so far are the Japanese women winning a whole lot and the Norwegian men being not quite that dominant but at least challenging the Dutch skaters after being largely out of the picture for a decade. A point that Joey Cheek has made a few times is that top skaters don't make a goal of winning in November in a season that leads up to the Olympic Games, so many of the favorites might still be under-ripe at this point.

    Also of interest is Brittany Bowe's return from post-concussion syndrome after colliding with a teammate while training last year, which cost her most of the season. She doesn't appear to be at the peak of conditioning at this point but she's back on blades and top-ten fit at least and could be a factor by February.

    Another point to keep in mind is that the results of these meets determine how many skaters each nation sends to the Olympic Games, but each nation has it's own method of deciding who those skaters will be. In the case of the US, that will be a Trials meet at the start of January. Going on World Cup results so far, the US contingent isn't figuring to be very large, but that makes for an exciting and competitive Trials meet, to look on the bright side.

    Calgary's up next, starting tomorrow.

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  • Reply to: Speedskating Season is Starting and During an Olympic Year it Matters   44 weeks 5 days ago

    I've been following Joey Mantia's Instagram account. Every now and then he posts videos of things like him on a skating treadmill. Incredible how much work goes into Olympic training.  It's another world entirely. 

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  • Reply to: Crowd-Sourced Color Names by XKCD   44 weeks 5 days ago

    Sorry so late to respond. I must have been distracted for a long time! Let's see 2 Carolina Centuries, 2 A2As, Holidays, work, training, eating, goofing off. Maybe i couldn't handle thinking about color names without being sad about not making a yearly Roadskater.net jersey. Ha. Anyway this is a great post and deserves a reply, so here it is, lame as it will be. You know all of this timv, but for those interested who may not, here goes.

    Anyway, back to the color names. These are extremely useful, and Pantone has made a bundle of money printing the color-fan books used to color match and to communicate about printed color...for example, the exact color of your company logo. They deliver specific ink color that is predictable where it is most important to get it right. Reflex blue is a popular named color that used to be a popular choice for business cards and such at a local printer running a press in the very same ink-smelling building. "Here you can have any one of these colors for the base price; If you want us to mix colors, you're gonna pay for dat."

    Of course most printed items done on paper and cardboard I would guess use CMYK, even if they are trying to achieve a color agreed upon using the Pantone color matching system books. (Take a look at the boxes containing processed foods; if you see color blocks on the underside flaps, it means those are the colors they want to be sure to get right, because people don't want to buy boxes of food that don't look right. My understanding is that they use cyan, magenta, yellow, black, PLUS spot colors they care about most, like logo colors and colors that make their food look like it want to be eaten by you who went to the store hungry again.)

    Many things that used to come in just Pantone colors and may have been screen printed (like tee shirts, maybe jerseys, say) later could be any color, and could have gradient fades. So that all sounds like they're not using single color pigments of ink, but a digital system that produces essentially all colors using a dye-sublimation process. 

    If Pantone's so great for specifying colors, then what's the problem? It's proprietary intellectual property, and they want to make money from their great implementation of a great idea. Most open source software makers are not comfortable using proprietary intellectual property, and others don't want to pay to use it.

    So for that and other reasons there is a need for color names that have a specific meaning, in the RGB (color on a web page or other light-screen display) and CMYK (color as printed using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to make the blacks really black) spaces.

    In the XKCD set, for colors like "blueygreen," I wonder if it was blue y (and) green or more like "blueish green," and why not just call it "bluegreen"? Oh. I see. All three of those are there. Bluey must mean something different than blueish to the people who took the survey. Language about colors! OMG. I take it that those with no y or ish are the more direct mixes. Blueishgreen is oh so slightly darker than blueishgreen. 

    Also, about the national flag of Roadskater.net, that's pretty much right. For those who wonder, it was a flag-sized white piece of jersey fabric with color blocks of Pantone colors printed on the jersey material. An irritable jersey manufacturer sent these to customers who really cared what blue it was so they could actually see the colors as they would be printed on (what was then) the fabric they offered. It helped more than any amount of discussing colors or studying their CMYK equivalents (which does also help, but doesn't show how they look on a particular fabric, as different fabrics will have different saturation of color capabilities, and varying amounts of sheen or reflectivity...which is why a jersey may look a lot more colorful wearing even neutral grey polarized lenses...they cut the reflections from the surface of the fabric that tend to white-out the color saturation...not speaking technically here). 

    Anyway this color block flag-sized fabric went with me many places and times of day and during varied weather as I tried to decide on each year's jersey color. Notice for example, that hi-viz green is bright early and late in the day and on cloudy days when the light is bluer, but hi-viz orange kicks it when the light is more yellow on sunny days and in the middle parts of the day. That's my take on it, anyway. So I wanted to see how the jerseys were going to look in different weather and different light, and there was no way we'd have one too close to the color of tree leaves or tree trunks or asphalt, because:

     

    It's good to be pretty, and even better to be seen. (Talkin' 'bout the jersey, now.)

    I generally tried to flip between cool and warm colors from year to year, and tried to consider how many team members that year (or jersey wearers) might have tolerance for colors often considered in various parts as too timid or soft, or whatever. If you're going for certain colors the guys may not be as happy wearing, you at least want to make it highly saturated version of it...make it "bold," was my thinking. And if it's a "sissy" color you'd better have a big black bold logo there to make a statement.

    Unfortunately on the year we finally went for the "Hot Magenta," it was a bit milder and the manufacturer made all of the logos too small except on the smallest jerseys...they inexplicablyused only one size of art, so the 3XL had the same sized logo as the XS. Inexplicable except perhaps from taking more orders from more customers than they could do and buying new print machines that used a new process and meant all their art had to be laid out again by the artists even if there were NO CHANGES. I can only say they made great jerseys most years, but it was a real pain talking with anyone other than a salesperson who knew less about their product than I did, because every year they were a new salesperson.

    Subsequent prints of this Hot Magenta jersey, however, came out spanking great, with lots of pop in the color contrasting and a logo that was close to too big on XL because we wanted it bold all the way to 3XL. Colors that had been great in their early fabric and printing process, looked OK but not as rich, later. I think the purples and blues, which had been no real problem, when reprinted a few years later (the "True Violet" and "Sky Blue") did not look as saturated. It was like the fabric didn't take the blue as well as Cherry Red, Sunflower Yellow, even Ocean Teal (which looks great with the orange spot color).

    I would often say in amazement, and I don't know if someone else said it first, but "the hardest thing to get every year is the same thing as before, just different colors." We made very few changes through the years because I wanted all the jerseys throughout the year to maintain the look of a set, so people who didn't want or couldn't afford a new jersey could wear a previous one just fine and look like part of the team. We did add the Carolina Century logo. OK that's too much about jerseys and colors! Oh there's so much more to say about bat-wings on the sleeves, and how it all finally came down to not being able to do business with that jersey mf'er (that's short for manufacturer) ever again. 

    I bet a lot of this info is still on http://skatejerseys.com! Oh yeah. Including photos in sun and shade, white balanced. All that.

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  • Reply to: Ok. But Can It Do Crazylegs?   44 weeks 6 days ago

    Interesting how it kind of skates backwards doing the turns, as it looks to me. I can't decide if the knees are backwards or the arms are.

    But when I think of it as a skater doing tricks on one wheel (just the front wheel of an inline skate pair) then it seems about right...if that one wheel could drive itself, as this one does.

    Can it carry a wider basket? Can it carry that milk crate down the stairs without spilling stuff (I assume not because it needs to balance itself). Is there a faceplant video? I want to see that!

    Yep it's scary good what it can do. Still can't do the shortest Carolina Century distance, but it won't be long!

    Also yeah Philly Steps, no problem. I can't do that, or am not going to try. Seems like they mostly only do that one backwards, so maybe there is some inline skate influence from the inventors and builders.

    I wonder how much this is controlling itself (I assume all the balance is done by itself). I like when the wheels lock in the snow. When it ignores the ramps, for example, has it been told to ignore changes in the surface and not to try to ride them somehow?

    Fascinating!

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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   46 weeks 3 days ago
    I've been meaning to post an update here but just have not had time since getting an interesting new job last year and commuting 80 miles a day (3-4 hours) before being able to move closer to work. My practice time suffered over those 5 months but I have recovered it again. 
     
    I skimmed my previous posts to check for redundancy, stupidity and contradictions. tl;dr - I'm sure there will be many!
     
    I think I have gotten a little bit closer to answering some of the questions I had 18 months ago with my first post here. Some of the gaps are starting to fill in. I realize now how I should have been practicing each skill as I came upon them, as the goals have been not only to be able to play the instrument but to read music. 
     
    I'm starting to think that for the clarinet, 'scales are the key to all improvisation' makes about as much sense as 'everything happens for a reason' or 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. When you're in the thick of it the answers all float in ridicule over your head, but you'll be able to draw the pathways and correlations back to them later. Most musicians and tutors have already come out the other side and therefore think it's obvious.
     
    My relationship with my own memory has evolved over 3 years, and I've learned to hack into it whichever ways I can to improve my clarinet playing and music reading. At my age, anything I learn parrot-fashion flies away in my sleep overnight or is otherwise long gone after a full day at work, and muscle memory is a coward that flees at the first sight of stage fright. Logic and reasoning have their feet firmly on the ground and set me off on the right footing, but fade into the distance and out of earshot when I'm already several measures into a journey. I'm at the point right now of looking for anything else that works, but it's important to separate mastering (even just the) major scales with learning a piece of music in an ensemble. 
     
    I'll start with the easy one! I found a crazy band to play with that doesn't care whether I play anything at all during rehearsal (but dressing up in outrageous costumes is a must). Many of them couldn't play a single note on a particular instrument when they started and learned it as they went along: "This week I'm going to play all the G notes. Next week I'll throw in the A's too". I love this band. I guess it's a common thing when you join a club or take up a new activity to assess whether you belong or not, or whether it'll be worth your time to continue. I spent the first five weeks thinking I would be forever inadequate and was perhaps the only person in the room who had never played decades before at school, but knew it would be worth my time to keep going back. If I learned anything new each time, it's surely not a bad thing and the other band members didn't seem to mind. I recorded each song on my phone to be able to practice at home - I've got recordings and sheet music to about 40 out of 50 in their regular playlist so far, and there are about 95 songs total, counting retired and special occasion pieces. I started listening and reading along on the train in the morning and evening and couldn't wait to try to play along. Earworms are inevitable and make learning a piece much easier. I can't say I'm up to recognizing any patterns or phrases yet but I do remember whole chunks of sheet music and see them in my mind's eye during the earworm, which is a handy memory-crash workaround. Spreadsheets are also inevitable, and I think I've checked off about 5 pieces in the Can Read column. They're the easiest tunes (to me) out of the bunch so the next column is Memorize, which I think will happen naturally. I know I'm still cheating in hearing the whole in my head and joining in the ensemble conversation from ear instead of reading my part, but after about 20 minutes of reading the same 40 bars or so over and over, I'm no longer reading it anyway. This brings me back to what I should've been doing the whole time since I started in the year two-thousand-and-whatever-it-was. 
     
    I should've put most of my preparation efforts into seeking out new-to-me sheet music appropriate to my level at the time, and practiced playing those as often as possible for a few minutes at a time. Much longer than 5 minutes even at the right level for me is counter productive. Instead, I worked on anywhere from 3 to 5 pieces each week, trying to 'perform' them perfectly for my tutor instead of practicing reading them. In entirely the wrong way, I would figure out how these pieces were supposed to sound, hear it in my head and then just mimic that whenever I played it later instead of reading it each time. Granted, I still needed to practice reading rhythms, note values, pitches and key signatures to be able to figure out how it should sound in the first place, but then I'd ditch those aspects of reading and use my internal playback from then on. Consequently, I'm still stuck at "Urgh! Dotted eighth! Think. Think. Think." And nothing happens. 
     
    Roadskater went on a clarinet used-book buying spree a few years back and handed them all to me. These are high school band books I'm currently using to practice what I should've 2 years ago. I use the metronome and read the simplest pieces of music. It's painstaking but there really is no other way for me to do this. What I have learned from this exercise (thanks to a great Reddit piano thread) is that I tend to space out and drift off, as is written on all my high school reports. No surprise there. It's essential to my progress to go back to the beginning and figure out what I'm doing wrong. I can't do that when trying to read way above my level. 
     
    Following along with my eyes only to the grown up band sheet music during rehearsal is not difficult for me. But playing it is! So my interim goal is to narrow that gap asap. Perhaps the ensemble-playing part of my brain will be able to communicate with the elementary music-reading part and point out how to recognize phrases and patterns. I'm really no good at abstract.
     
    Which brings me to scales. I've never read my scales but only ever practiced from memory. Perhaps this is why I still cannot play them straight up perfectly for my tutor every week. It's come to my attention while searching for help and advice on this that many people only ever read them and have no idea why anybody would want to memorize them. My tutor wants me to reach my goals of being able to improvise, so I'm sure that's why. Again, with hindsight, I should perhaps have started out reading them. 'Music With Ray' showed me last year why muscle memory alone would not work, but I didn't practice the way he suggested until now. Right now all I have is a vague idea of the key signatures plus muscle memory. The internet here is not much help: "Just take a few weeks and memorize them!". Ok how about a few YEARS? If I set out playing a scale, I can think ahead of time how many sharps or flats there are in it, but by the time I get to said sharp or flat I lost track of which scale I was on, or where the pitch is on the clarinet. This makes me wonder if I know 100% where all the pitches are on the clarinet and that solving one problem would solve the other. It also makes me wonder whether I really know anything at all. 
     
    In rereading the above paragraphs I can see plainly that I need to read the scales for a while  - accidentals and all - and take a mind's eye snapshot to refer back to when performing them for my tutor. 
     
    There are some apps that show you unfamiliar music for you to play and grade you on your performance, but are for piano only. I wish there were one for clarinet. Maybe this'll be something available in about 5 years that'll revolutionize learning to read music. 
     
    I need to remember also that I started a new career in a specific industry just over a year ago and have been on a huge learning curve there which is now just starting to level out a bit. Personal hobbies and enrichment take a backseat to food and shelter. 
     
    Here's an attempt for me to answer some of my questions of 18 months ago:
    Is it better to just memorize whole sections of the music? No, not if the goal is to be able to read music. You'll be able to remember it as a natural progression later but it's better to get the reading skills down, if reading is your goal. 
     
    Do I rely on the shapes and paintings in my head of how it sounds, while trying to follow the dots on the page with my eyes? Shapes and paintings are good if they help you remember the clarinet fingerings but you'll have to separate any enthusiasm for the actual sound while you're focusing on learning reading skills. 
     
    Do I identify the first note and be so familiar with the instrument that I play it from there? At some point that will help when playing phrases rather than note-by-note, but to get to that point you have to do the hard slog, boring donkey work. 
     
    If I only 'read' the music while playing it, what good is that if it all vaporizes when the sheet music is taken away? You can go on to memorize the stuff you like, and leave the rest. 
     
    Does that mean I haven't really learned anything? No. It means you've given yourself a leg up to live life on a whole other level you didn't have before you learned how to read music. 
     
    What do the anonymous internet people say about all this? Keep digging until you find advice that specifically addresses your problem. It takes a lot of digging. 
     
    I've written about this for long enough now and need to go practice!
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