Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beautiful Bugs, Annoying Clicks

This is, for me, my Thursday post, but it is early Friday.

Blogger was down all day Thursday and I couldn’t put up my post. That’s the first time I remember that happening.

It is Friday morning as I’m typing this bit and my last post, Wednesday’s post, has been removed as part of Blogger’s attempt to fix itself. The tech people say my missing Wednesday post will be restored soon as their computers get back to normal. We’ll see. If they’ve lost it, I can recreate it.

So I’m just going to roll with it and do two posts today, one early and one later. This first post will be back-dated—if the date stamp is working—for Thursday. I wrote and prepared everything yesterday. I did my part. But I just wasn’t able to post it yesterday because Blogger wasn’t here.

It’s not my fault!

- Mark

I’ve just got two totally unrelated things today. [Thursday, that is! –Mark]

Beautiful Bugs

First of all, this has been a horrible week for me. Early Monday I had some kind of allergic reaction to something I ate (I think it was the combination of wheat bread on a sandwich and the food processing chemicals in some restaurant soup) and then, at the same time, my sinuses had some kind of allergic reaction to all the pollen and other plant matter in the air. So all week my head has felt like a monster has been crunching my skull between its teeth. Thanks to very careful meals and Benadryl I’ve slooooowly been getting better. But still right now the whole left-side of my head feels like someone whacked me with a sledge hammer.

I mention this because today I went out to buy some chicken and vegetables and as I was walking along, groaning to myself and getting all self-pitying about the aches in my head, I felt a bug land on my arm and I looked down and it was a black ladybug.

It was so beautiful I just stopped and stared. In my whole life, I’ve never seen a black ladybug before. It was small and black with two bright orange dots, one on each side of its back. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I found a picture on the net. It looked like this, but with smaller spots.

After looking around at the Bug Guide Site, I believe it was a type of ladybug called a ‘twice-stabbed’ ladybug. The guide says some species are primarily southern but sometimes northern farmers release them for pest-control purposes. We’ve had a lot of wind coming up from the south recently and I suspect it might have been carried north by the strange weather systems.

It was a very pleasant moment for me. I felt terrible, but here was nature taking a second to show me something wildly beautiful, something I’d never seen before.

So, for a second, I felt really good. For a second.

Playing With a Metronome

So a couple of weeks ago I bought a fancy metronome. Not only can it do a million metronome-type things, but it can also function as a little guitar practice amp.

I have a lot of trouble playing to a rigid time, so I am buckling down and practicing a little every day to some simple beat.

Just to prove it, here’s a clip I made today.

This is me practicing with the metronome. And I’m playing with a pick, to get better volume for the clip.

I don’t have much to go along with this. About the only thing interesting here—other than me struggling to keep time—is that this is just a random little melody I made up this morning and yet it resolves itself in twelve bars. I didn’t consciously target a twelve-bar structure or anything. But we all hear so many eight-bar and twelve-bar melodies in pop music that they become part of us, even when we’re just playing around.

This little melody is very interesting to me because I can play this progression—the exact same chords—on guitar or keyboard. It feels so natural and easy on guitar, and I really struggle on the keyboard. But it’s an interesting test for me to play the same chords (just different voicings—1573 on guitar and 5713 on keyboard) and to try and get it as casually on keyboard as I can on guitar. It feels like I’ll never get it and I want to give up. But I know sometimes you just have to struggle through something and things get easier. Sometimes.

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