What I learned about performing with Glass

Besides doing field work and playing with baby hands free, one of my original aim for acquiring Google Glass was to make it useful for the live performing musicians.

But like building any new app / product / service, I didn’t quite settle with the use case. It was too small for scores, but actually have enough pixels for something other than just pictures. But it was also hard to focus both beyond the screen and on the screen at the same time.

So I thought maybe I actually need to start performing with Glass to learn more. My brass quintet’s recital last Monday was the perfect opportunity for me to give the vanilla version of the product a spin. Here’s how I look sitting:

Glass, sit

Here’s a typical sitting position for most classical musicians on stage whether it’s a small group or a large orchestra. I learned a few things that night:

  • Sweat makes you feel Glass more. When I’m playing with baby or out doing field work, I don’t sweat as much as I do on stage, as performing in brass quintet is an intensive exercise for me. Being “aware” of Glass possibly affected my concentration.
  • View from audience of my facial expression was obstructed. Partially due to my position to the audience in that setting, but as you can see, even supposedly the darkest colour of Glass would shine brilliantly under stage lights. I was hoping that buying charcoal colour would blend with my hair, but it didn’t work.

Glass, stand

Here’s a typical standing position, common in small ensemble or soloist playing concertos with any type of accompaniment. More observations:

  • Scores are quite redundant in these scenarios. One would have memorised the solo, or even if the soloist needs, he or she would need to leave it and have direct eye contact with the audience. Glass prevents that eye contact from happening as the distance between a typical audience and the performer is much further than face to face conversations.
  • Concentration of the audience would also drift due to an unfamiliar novelty attached to their favourite musician. Usually a costume or any kind of attire does not obstruct the face of the performer on stage, as that’s the visual attachment and body language that goes with the music. So unless I wear Glass in all my publicity material and is known as _the_ Glass Trombonist, this is going to distractify.

#throughglass

During the show, there are a million things that we rehearsed that we have to do, thus naturally Glass is the last thing I remembered. I was overwhelmed despite being throughly prepared, because as typical amateurs, there will be situations during concerts that we have never anticipated. And we need to react very quickly.

Thus, this shot above was the only shot I manage to take using Glass during the show, and it was during the longest reprieve moment when I got a break from my emcee duty and was resting for the next item. Also notice that:

  • Lighting conditions are all wrong for the purpose of capturing a view of the audience, because typically the house is dark, while the stage is bright. Audience on the other hand gets a pretty picture of us (but not allowed to due to rules set by the hall). So there’s no way of my taking a picture of my wife and daughter even if they could come, unless it was done before/after the concert or during intermission.
  • Sharpness of the image suffers too because on stage we often use these tungsten-halogen lamps that somehow creates these diffused lighting around, as compared to natural lighting conditions where Glass works flawlessly.

Glare at end

The glare was evident with the final shot – this last picture was taken after the very end during curtain call.

And so surprise surprise even though I kept telling myself to capture just one segment of video, even if it’s 10 seconds, during the show, it did not happen!

Just like an instrument, using Glass well means practise practise practise. Like many classical musicians, our zenith in playing comes after we overcome the technical challenges of producing a good sound at the right time right place, so that our minds can be focused on communicating with the audience. Thus it’s unfair that I had at most 25 minutes of “practise” of using Glass during rehearsals, vs 25 years of practise on my trombone.

Yesterday when I was putting these cameraman photos onto Facebook, I also realise that their face detection algorithms fails to detect all my faces when I upload pictures. The “face” is no longer a face in essence, what a bummer.

So is there still hope in making this a useful gear for performance? I still think so, because there are certain concepts that I couldn’t test, for example, remote controlled image taking and video recording (I might be wearing the Glass, but my cameraman is the best person to judge when I have a great view), and other show elements (such as live broadcast of the show on projector or elsewhere).

And of course there’s also that score reading thing that still bugs me – can I read 1 stave of music that follows my playing? Can I read chords and lyrics only for singers / guitarist? Looking forward to the next round of testing during Christmas season :)

End notes: it’s actually great for fooling around backstage!

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2 years on

wedding photo

(Pictures are direct link to FB, only those who can see it on FB will see it here)

Just as the way we planned it, the rest of the country will celebrate the day of the forming of the federation tomorrow while we silently marked out 2nd year since we officially toasted before 500 people, pledging our love.

toast

And so the family grew by one (until last month when it grew by one again).

family

After all that wedding (we had 3) we had a pretty difficult time in our careers but a fairly enjoyable time being that carefree couple. And no we didn’t understand that obviously – you don’t know how it is like to live with no children until you have one. We dated each other every other day.

date

We wanted children from the outset, even though we have no idea whether it’s going to be 2 or 3, so we kept playing with other people’s babies.

babies

And that of course resulted in one for ourselves, naturally right?

dad

mum

Every textbook, web comic and well meaning friends have warned about the topsy turvy in our marriage. And they were right, but pretty wrong in the details – we soon discovered we have our unique problems that only we can solve together.

yenn @ week 6
Yenn @ 6 weeks

And as she grows, fully nourished on breast milk now, she’s become increasingly clever and throw so much tantrum that we are still finding it hard to ignore or teach her a lesson. There was once that I got very nasty, and I regretted it very badly. I mean she was 12 weeks old then – I don’t expect more from some 30 year olds – what do I expect her to do except plead for mercy of existing in pain?

yenn @ week 11
Yenn @ 11 weeks

Because after all that crying, all we want is for her to be happy.

yenn @ 15 weeks
Yenn @ 15 weeks

Happy wedding anniversary to my dear wife Yee Cheng :*

wedding dinner

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Slides from STF Seminar

Thanks to all who sat through the short seminar at the Singapore Trombone Festival. I don’t usually speak about this topic, glad to have an opportunity to connect with fellow trombonists and share some thoughts.

Here’re the slides for your reference. For those who did not attend, please note that this is not a replacement for rigorous harmony and orchestration training, but a light and easy hour to get musicians to start writing instead of just playing the instrument, and critiquing other people’s arrangements.

Getting Started on arranging for Trombones

STF logo

More information about the festival (some concerts you should catch)!

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Gratitude and tough love

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that realise “Tough Love” is an accepted expression (proof by Wikipedia).

When I first learned of the word gratitude (probably in my teens), it wasn’t a good feeling. Because it’s often used when the other party is administering tough love. Remember 打就是爱, 骂就是疼? It’s no wonder I find it odd that many years later, it would take an extreme mental shift for me to express gratitude both to people who administer “Kind Love”, to “Lady Luck”, and most importantly to my own self.

So today, as Singapore, a place I’ve been based out of for the past 9 years, celebrates its 49th birthday, I want to express my gratitude to the people of this island state that has made the following possible, especially those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet:

1. To the faceless and nameless officer at ICA, thank you for granting me 5 years of PR in the latest renewal, instead of the year by year renewal that I had to endure earlier. With a 5 year horizon not having to worry that I will be expunged from here and forced to sell my flat, I can put my heart and soul into starting up new business, writing music, and dabble into various activities that’s not related to survival mode. If it’s not too much to ask for, please bring back the 10 years PR scheme as well, whatever the opportunity cost may be.

2. To the faceless and nameless civil servant at HDB, thank you for scrapping the Sibling Scheme only after me and my brother purchased a flat in Ang Mo Kio at sky high COV. Not only have this small humble place serve as a place for our parents to camp over when they are here helping taking care of my new born daughter, it has also strategically placed me next to some of the people that I am endeavouring new projects and startups together. It also helped me shelter and later marry my wife, and have children, while my brother is doing the same right now, something rather difficult when we were both camping in a rented room with a double decker bed.

3. The ABSD and rent that we saved (now mortgage paid out of our CPFs) can now be channeled into very productive tool such as a motor vehicle. To the Singapore residents who bidded for a COE around the time I got my trusty civic, thank you, for not bidding beyond my means. It has made a difference in enabling me to launch into hundreds of situations, such as fetching equipment and musicians to perform at shows in a timely manner, fetching my family back and fro Malaysia, wandering and learning about various underprivileged corners of Singapore and Malaysia, and so on, without being held back by a lack of mobility. We hope to meet you again 2 years from now when we all have to bid for another COE at the same time.

4. To the people in the EDB scholarship machinery, thank you for channelling your tax dollars into funding my overseas education, and forcing me to relinquish whatever opportunity I would otherwise be able to ride on in US, so that I can sit through more than 7 years of system integration, government service, telecommunications, while still dealing with technology, music and startups on the side. What a better an outcome than an indentured servant being granted freedom in the New World, albeit a different one? It even comes with some overseas education badge of honour that has ever since been useful in both job hunting and business networking.

5. To the nameless and faceless people of NParks, thank you for not chopping down the large Angsana tree in front of my flat, even though 4 similar trees between where we live and Ang Mo Kio MRT has been completely cut down for unaccounted reasons (which hopefully someday we can read about in an article). This is despite the tree being damaged severely by contractors who demanded some branches cut off for the purpose of lift upgrading. Please keep it till I sell the flat a few decades down the road, otherwise my buyer will be face to face with the artificial river of AMK Ave 3.

6. To my neighbours (sorry I still don’t know all of you) who voted ‘yes’ for lift upgrading, thank you for agreeing to shell out a cool two plus grand and enduring the extremely slow construction pace, cooking with dust in your dinner, and having your infants breath filthy air. Because of you, we are now $32,000 poorer, but all the better because we will be able to put our daughter right into the stroller and roll her all the way to the nanny in the coming month, instead of carrying her for 2 flights of stairs prior to doing so.

7. To the employers of senior citizens, such as the town council who is still keeping my 70 year old neighbour sweeping my car park, or the cleaning company who hires the 70 year old who cleans my table and plates in the coffee shop and hawker centre, thank you for providing them the opportunity to work till they can’t any more, instead of letting them retire and die prematurely, as your founding father has often predicted. It will be great if more organisations would find ways to let them go into gardening (roof top gardens?) instead of just cleaning, which we young people can do.

8. To the lorry drivers carrying my vegetables from Malaysia, to the ship crew carrying my pork from Bintan, in fact to everyone in the food supply industry, thank you for doing your best to keep your price competitive, so that we continue to have access to affordable food, and help our hawkers, restaurants, and other food outlets pay their exorbitant rent. Like my mum said: just take KL for comparison, with all the advantages of being closer to sources of food, eating in KL is (without converting, i.e. based on PPP) so much more expensive than in Singapore. Oh by the way, please don’t strike, it’s ok to pass on the cost of the causeway toll rise to us consumers.

9. To all the people (I don’t even know how to address you, bio defence?) who are working hand in hand to ensure the Ebola virus doesn’t reach the shores of this island, thank you, for your vigilance, for I cannot protect myself without guidance in the event of an outbreak. I was still in US when SARS broke out and I read excellent feedback about the measures taken to minimise loss of life, and hope such infrastructures and operating procedures are in place for us to survive again.

Oh there are so many more, I think I will stop here before this becomes a book.

All of you collectively formed Singapore, and as I inadvertently also contribute the same to earn my purpose of stay, I know I’m standing not just on the shoulder of one single giant, but many many individuals who continues to find ways to make live better for others.

It’s tough love, sometimes they tax you heavily to deliver a benefit, sometimes they use severe penalties to control your behaviours, sometimes they pull the carpet under you so that you can fall into a thankful kneeling position. The fortunate thing is after you give thanks, you can stand up and walk on to better pastures, and not having to endure warfare, famine, not even theft, maybe just relative poverty, as the Gini coefficient revealed.

Gini Coefficient

After all poverty can be a good thing – it stops you from chasing after material goods, and looking at the other things that matter in life, spiritual or otherwise. Capital can then be channeled into bigger things to continue to weave additional support on the hammock of survival.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

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More than 10 years of working experience

Is officially no longer something I fake on my resume – ha!

Real Working Experience

Years ago, I used to count working experience starting from my internship days. Just so that people don’t think I’m too green for any position. After all, I lived most of my working years in dog years, and that worked out well.

But now it’s truly 10 years, starting from August 2004 when I started in Amazon.com, until now (few months of being entrepreneurial in music scene notwithstanding).

Do you tell people you’re more experienced than you really are? Do you do creative accounting on resumes?

Count your days, count your blessings.

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Fixing whatsapp on iOS8 beta

The issue is already well documented, I’m pulling them together here and adding some ideas.

The cause is an error in handling Typographic Ligature http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typographic_ligature (actually I don’t care, just in case you do)

The current behaviour is:

A. if you type a message with ff, fl or fi and hit Send, whatsapp crashes, you don’t see the message in your phone, but the message is actually sent.

B. if you receive a message with ff, fl or fi, whatsapp crashes when you open the message, but the message continues to reside in the database, and thus you will not be able to converse with this person / group until something is done.

For scenario A, there’s nothing you can do, but at least communication continues (you just don’t have a log of the message).

For scenario B, my solution of choice is based on this snippet on github

Steps

  1. Download and launch iExplorer
    http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/
  2. Download and launch SQLiteBrowser
    http://sqlitebrowser.org
  3. In iExplorer, look for Apps, WhatsApp, and drag ChatStorage.sqlite to your desktop
  4. Drag that file again into SQLLiteBrowser (optional – create a duplicate for backup for safety)
  5. Click on Execute SQL, paste the following in and then click the Play button to execute the queries

    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%ff%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%ff%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'fi', 'f_i') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%fi%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'fl', 'f_l') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%fl%';

    DROP TRIGGER ios8_fix;
    CREATE TRIGGER ios8_fix AFTER INSERT ON ZWAMESSAGE FOR EACH ROW
    BEGIN
    UPDATE ZWAMESSAGE SET ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') WHERE ROWID = NEW.ROWID;
    UPDATE ZWAMESSAGE SET ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') WHERE ROWID = NEW.ROWID;
    UPDATE ZWAMESSAGE SET ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'fi', 'f_i') WHERE ROWID = NEW.ROWID;
    UPDATE ZWAMESSAGE SET ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'fl', 'f_l') WHERE ROWID = NEW.ROWID;
    END;

    The 1st query (ff) needs to be executed twice because of words like wtffffff. The first time replacement will create wtf_ff_ff_f, and the second round wtf_f_f_f_f_f.

    I didn’t quite like the [f f] style coz I also type messages to others and it’s easier to type f_f and looks more normal to the receiving party. Feel free to change this (if you add something at the end you don’t need to repeat the query).

  6. Quit SQLiteBrowser and save the file.
  7. Drag the file back to where you got it from in iExplorer. Choose to Replace the file

The resulting behaviour might still result in a crash, but a second launch will be successful.

Thoughts welcomed.

Ok back to work on iOS8.

p/s At some point in the future when the problem is gone, I would do a final update

update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_f', 'ff') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_f%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_f', 'ff') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_f%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_i', 'fi') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_i%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_l', 'fl') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_l%';

DROP TRIGGER ios8_fix;

to revert my entire database to the original.

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Growth Spurts

We’re into the 3rd week now, not exactly full moon yet, but patterns has emerged, some old wives tale has been proven to work and we’ve been lectured throughly on Facebook.

Turns out the stress from parenting isn’t so much about the baby’s expectations. There are a limited number of things that can go wrong (and a very small probability it’s something else that requires the doctor) – milk, poop, gas, cradle. Other than these 4, we haven’t seen any other need. The cry is also consistent, starting from milk which can shake the house, down to cradle, which is a tearless cry.

The same couldn’t be said of the complex world that we live in, one that would take every opportunity to tell you you’re doing it wrong, and yet request for more baby photos to be made available. We’re hesitant now – if every photo of our parenting invites a barrage of lecture from our week meaning friends, is it better to save it for ourselves and only put the standard family portraits?

Never had my study of the social media phenomenon been so amplified. We created for ourselves a world that screams Gold 90 FM: Only the good stuff. Why? Why won’t it be? Just like in my previous work life I have been warn never to write bad things about my employer on this very blog you’re reading. That’s why it’s always good news, marketing news, etc. and I kept my job.

Now all that we hope is that our extended family and close friends get to follow us as we embark on a new journey to raise children, especially since we’re geographically separated. What we didn’t expect: contradicting lectures. Half the world says sleep with aircond, half the world say cannot. Half the world say a cat will kill the baby, half the world couldn’t care less. Don’t get me started on the advise that my wife got on breastfeeding.

Some of them are sensitive enough to private message, while some bother to repeat exactly what’s said by earlier commenters. I mean, seriously, how many times must you say cannot have direct sunlight in baby’s eyes in one single picture? How stupid can the parent be? Why didn’t you tell me about the wrong way I’m eating in my earlier posts? I can get carried away pretty easily here.

So I took it in stride, while continuing to experiment. Yenn is a super demanding baby like many other babies, and comes with her own idiosyncrasies. At 3 weeks old, she’s quite a character when it comes to choosing the source of food (oh that face that says “yuck” when she got her milk slightly warmer or colder than expected), and her drama tantrum when we’re changing her diapers (omgomgomg there’s one more speck there on my butt) but dramatically return to her cuteness once the new diaper is locked in.

And the best part is her learning to cry amply so that she can be carried and cradled around. Unfortunately for her she has a very smart daddy who could start reading her by the amount of tears that comes out of her eyes: the “fake cry” that her dad is so good at doing is already identified at such a young age.

But we still pamper her like any parent would, exhausting our repertoire of nursery rhymes and random nonsense that we can ramble to keep her entertained in our arms until she willingly falls asleep. Not because anyone on Facebook cares, but we feel like it.

And if you’re going to be someone who’s going to tell us that baby who are carried too much will be very demanding in the future, we will smile and nod in agreement.

Have a nice day.

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New parents

Yes they have warned us multiple times. Yes we took antenatal courses and had all the knowledge. Yes we had all the support anyone could wished for (perhaps sans the benefits for locals but that’s for another day) – mother in law for confinement, friends who give their time, resource and moral support.

But nothing could prepare a couple in the face of a crying baby. An OMG-the-sky-is-falling-down crying baby.

Yenn is so sweet, until she cries. In that respect she’s no different from all the babies we see around. 6 days of training and we are now settled into the evergreen checklist of diaper, burp, milk.

Except we still need to remember to bring around _enough_ diapers, burp the right way, and feed, uh, wait there’s not enough milk being produced… Even though every nurse says it’s ok and gave ever so slightly varied tips from the massage to the pump, we were still too nervous to lactate up to medical quantity.

I wouldn’t say it’s an indescribable feeling, it’s just, you’re so tired from this 3 hourly routine you don’t want to describe it. But that’s not what well meaning family members from all corners of earth understand in that very same Whatsapp-group refuge you used to build up confidence of being a parent.

These last two days changed the way we view the sun. The sun, that red hot boiling star is needed as your temporary liver and if you don’t get enough of it you pay a S$1,000 penalty for having your baby do phototherapy in a machine from Uranus for 48 hours. And she’s only been out for three days!

The book says 50% but the Neo Natal Jaundice ward’s nurse said 90%. And she used the word “locals” – so you mean LKY credited Aircond as the greatest invention wrongly? It should have been Medela’s Bilibed – the UV light than gives life to the island state?

Whichever percentage it is, evolution certainly wanted us dead. But we thrived. There’s a kind of morbid yet survival instinct point of view that I noticed between YC and me: we kind of like to just go with the professional advise – keep the child in the hospital, give enough milk, enough light. Because that gives that ever so small a break, a few hours between 10pm and 8am.

But on the other hand, there’s an overwhelming sense of love and responsibility that rejects this from the outset. Spartans take their child to the army at age 7 and you’re taking it from me at day 6!? We shuttled in and out of the hospital 3 times today, and will probably do 4 tomorrow and 2 the day after before we can redeem our precious.

And now at home, it’s already very eery that there’s no crying sound. The sense of emptiness is rather.. indescribable.

Suddenly the lyrics of a piece that I just finished arranging came to mind. In 江惠’s 家后:

阮的一生献乎恁兜, 才知幸福是吵吵闹闹

The journey continues.

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Birth

My first born, Kai Yenn, was born 23 May 2014 6:39pm at Mt Alvernia Hospital, Singapore.

Daddy and Yenn

She weigh 3.55kg at birth. Mummy was doing well, reasonably refreshed right after delivery too. Yay mummy!

Mummy and Yenn

She is feeding and sleeping well after a first day of learning to latch on, and when she smiles, she’s cute dao…

Angel Yenn

Stereotypes starts immediately at birth (female gemini horse 八字) but at least we believe in choosing a good name for her.

is a word we stumbled upon when finding alternatives to 凯. It has a mountain and a self on the right, almost like tracking your way up the hills, something dad likes to bring mum to do, to seek peace and tranquility. With the heart on the left, it means happiness, harmonious, and merry. 恺,乐也。——《说文》。按,豈,愷实同一字。

on the other hand follows mum’s dedication to animals. We wanted to call her Yenn, but many other similar sounding words like 彦 didn’t work out or were too boyish, and we already have an aunt using 燕. It is basically this migratory swan.

Swan

Swan

Swan

Perhaps she might bring us around the world on her wings?

Happy Birthday Baby Girl :)

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99 days of solitude, attitude, and fortitude

I originally wanted to commemorate the first 100 days of true freedom on Monday, but seeing that my wallet is empty and it’s still not ATM day, thus facing the prospect of having nothing to eat (or having my wife buy me lunch..) I changed my mind.

I’m going to commemorate, or more accurately raise my own alarm bell, on the 99th day. Previously I thought self-employment means no savings, but now the prospect of a real cash-flow crunch is actually possible, seeing that I’ve had a great decline in income that has been tapering slowly from previous deeds, and new sources are not yet flowing in quick enough.

New things takes time, music needs to be written, software needs to be built, customers needs to be courted, eyeballs need to be sustained. With all my focus on delivering music on time, other items, unwittingly, suffer. It’s not that things are not done, but they are not done at the fervour and speed of a startup.

And that has to change in the next 99 or 100 days, or I’ll be too deep into the jungle and would have spent more than half the year not scaling up as planned, but only running around like a chicken who lost its head.

100 days

I recalled an old article saying something like don’t multitask if you’re trying to focus on delivering creative work. Now I see this hurts. Normally I perform very well in a salaried job, typically being an administrator, because the job is primarily routing messages and keeping dozens of threads running in parallel, making other people do the creation. However, when I do creation, the world vanishes and I exist only for the music.

Another way probably is to tag team with someone who’s willing to do the rest of the work, but at my current scale that doesn’t really work yet. It might also be another excuse to delay following up critical matters.

Nevertheless, 99 days is a milestone for solitude, attitude, and fortitude. Celebrating it must mean looking forward to the next 100 days at a much higher level.

To a more productive and focused tomorrow. Cheers.

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