Timings on Debussy

Some of what I’m longing to play, as I get back into my piano lessons, are a couple of pieces by Debussy. Yes, I’m punching way above my weight so-to-speak but we all have to have goals right? The two pieces in question are “Reverie” and “Clair de Lune”. These are achingly beautiful pieces of music. But talk about challenging! The thing that gets me about these two pieces is the odd timing.

Reverie

Reverie is in 4/4 time but the way he wrote the left hand is confounding to someone just starting out:

The tied G-flats really throws me off.
It continues:

Now we’ve got the triplet quarter notes in the right hand, while the left hand is still doing the same phrase as above. Some really serious stuff for the beginning pianist.

Clair de Lune

Clair de Lune is not only in 9/8 time but in D-flat major. Then we’ve got more odd timings with dotted quarter notes tied to other quarter notes and eighth notes along with pedaling:

I know that these are very advanced pieces for some who is just starting out but I need motivation and level 1/2 books just don’t cut it so I’m planning on slowly working on these pieces to keep the interest level up with some real challenges. I’m already about halfway done learning the Satie I wrote about previously. That is also a very challenging piece and its been fun to learn.

Contemplating blogging platforms

I have a history of skipping back and forth between blogging platforms. It often takes years and almost always when I’ve found that I’m not writing as much as I had hoped. The “fix” for that problem always seems to be to switch platforms. The last couple of switches were between WordPress.com and Squarespace with a short dalliance attempting to move to Hugo. I started to feel that need again recently.

Once again I thought that it might be time to switch to Squarespace, so I started up one of their 14-day trials. Squarespace hasn’t changed all that much in years, and that isn’t a good thing. Yes, they still have beautifully designed templates. Yes, they still make it easy to modify those templates and enable you to make your website your own. They also allow unlimited bandwidth and disk space.

But for someone like me, who likes to write in Markdown, and occasionally likes to post code snippets, they’re not that great of an option. There are other problems with the offering:

  • The blog maintenance page still is a bit of a nightmare in that there are essentially no bulk change tools there.
  • There still is no centralized media browser.
  • Markdown syntax support in their Markdown block is still very minimal.
  • Their code syntax highlighting is non-existent.
  • They now require a Business account if you want to be able to inject custom CSS and/or JavaScript into your pages. This dovetails with the previous point because if you want nice code syntax highlighting you’ve got to be able to inject CSS and JavaScript for something like prism.js.

$18 a month for a yearly Business subscription for a personal website is a lot to ask. They give a generous 20% off coupon for the first year which knocks that price down but that means I’m paying for functionality I don’t need, like all the e-commerce features, just to get decent syntax highlighting.

Custom CSS and JavaScript used to be a part of the Personal plan. That would have made it more tempting for me to either ignore or work around the other problems in the list above.

WordPress.com has really been improving over the years, especially with the introduction of the Gutenberg block editor that came along with the release of WordPress 5.0 back in 2018. This has given the user the ability to customize their WordPress site almost as much as what Squarespace offers and the list of block types has consistently grown over the years to make things even more customizable.

For those who don’t like blocks the classic editor is still available. The classic editor is a necessity for anyone who writes in a tool like Ulysses or iA Writer and uses the post-to-WordPress functionality available in those tools. But WordPress goes a lot further with their offerings.

  • The Markdown block offers an expanded set of features via Markdown Extra including fenced code blocks that do syntax highlighting.
  • The Syntax Highlighting Code block offers highlighting for 30 languages.

WordPress has also expanded the Premium plan by allowing unlimited use of premium themes and much more advanced customization using CSS which weren’t included when I originally signed up for the plan 2 years ago.

The one place I would ding WordPress.com is the amount of disk space that is included as part of the premium plan. 13 GB is a paltry amount these days and to get more you need to move to the Business plan which goes from $8 a month up to $25. You get a lot more features but forcing someone to do that upgrade for more disk space is ridiculous. They should either give more space as part of the Premium plan or at least allow someone to pay for extra space by itself.

In the end, I couldn’t justify the costs of making the switch and decided to stick with WordPress.com for the next year. Even with the disk space issue it’s not worth the effort required in moving back to Squarespace. Importing of my content from WordPress isn’t straightforward because of the hand-holding required. I would have to set up URL redirects because WordPress and Squarespace handle blogs differently. It isn’t worth the effort to scratch an itch that doesn’t need scratching. The solution to this is to write more.

Photo courtesy of camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Back to piano lessons

4 years ago I started taking piano lessons. It was a dream of mine to some day really be able to play the piano well. Real life sometimes changes plans however and because of the increasing costs of my kids’ activities I had to quit.

4 years later things have changed a bit and I’m back to taking lessons with the same teacher. Obviously the pandemic has changed how this works for the time being so my first lesson last night was conducted via Zoom. It went a lot better than I expected.

The last lesson I had I was in the middle of learning the 1st of Satie’s Gymnopédies so last night, after working on the first two Hanon exercises, we got back to work on the Satie. Quite frankly I was amazed at how long muscle memory lasts as I was able to play it about as well as before and it’s been about a year since I even looked at that piece.

One other thing is that with the necessity of doing these lessons via Zoom I was able to put a bit of my geekery for sampled piano plugins to use. I set up all of my sampled pianos in an Apple MainStage set and then via Rogue Amoeba Loopback pipe that in to the Zoom meeting along with my microphone. It worked beyond my expectations which quite frankly were low.

The other thing is that now I’ve got a reason to practice every day. For stuff like this I just need the structure of lessons I’m paying for to keep my accountable for doing something every day. I’m really excited about what the future holds.


Photo courtesy of Markus Gjengaar on Unsplash

Loading a native library in Java on Windows

I’ve been struggling a bit with Java on Windows when I have needed to load a native library required by the application I’m currently working on (believe it or not a Java desktop application. Yes they still exist! 🙂 There are several options:

  • Load from an explicitly specified absolute path using the System.load call.
  • Make sure the DLL is in one of the paths listed in “java.library.path”

Handy tip: if running IntelliJ grab the code from and use it for a new Scratch file. It’s an easy way to get the value for your java.library.path.

class Foo {
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.getProperty("java.library.path");
}
}
view raw getjavalibpath.java hosted with ❤ by GitHub
  • Modify the Windows system PATH environment variable to include the folder where the DLL is stored.
  • Passing the “java.library.path” on the command line to the java runtime by using the -D option.

The best resource I found that helped me a lot was this page from Chilkat Software (and where the 4 items above were directly cribbed from! Thank you!).

Here we go again – hello OmniFocus

Knowing that I probably shouldn’t be doing this but doing it anyhow because the itch is there I setup an OmniFocus trial again. Just really curious to give it hard go for two weeks and see where that leads me. I really like Things but it can’t hurt to look elsewhere on occasion if only to see where I can improve my system.

Just a thought on task management

Sitting here about to shut stuff down for the night it just dawned on me that planning for stuff I need to do doesn’t just happen in a task manager. Yes the task manager is for planning but it’s the final destination for other planning work that needs to be done beforehand. Part of my problem is not exploring just what that part of my system is. It’s not capture and it’s not execution. Need to do some work I think.

Disabling SIP to delete “trouble” files in MacOS Catalina

I decided to check out the Safari Technology Preview but when I found out that the 1Password extension (no, not even the beta one) wouldn’t work there was little point in continuing as I rely on that for any passwords.

I uninstalled the Tech Preview via App Cleaner and Uninstaller and one folder couldn’t be removed. The folder name started with com.apple.SafariTechnologyPreview and I removed it manually via Finder which put it in the trash. When I tried to empty the trash it would complain that the folder was in use.

I tried rebooting in safe mode (hold down the Shift key while booting) to disable just about everything with no luck. The Mac was still complaining that the file was in use. I then tried the same experiment via booting into single user mode (hold down Command-S while booting) so I could perform the same thing as the root user. No luck there either as it gave more cryptic complaints.

This folder contained a file named SafariFamily that was the problem. I found this page where the person had the same problem and had a solution. I had to disable SIP (System Integrity Protection) via the Mac’s recovery mode. Recovery mode requires restarting the Mac and holding down Command-R while until the Apple logo appears.

Once in recovery mode I had to open up the Mac terminal app (via the menu) and run the command csrutil disable.

After that I restarted and that finally allowed me to delete the file. Then I had to reboot again into recovery mode again to turn SIP back on via csrutil enable. Another restart and I was back in business.

Disappointed with Google Drive and Dropbox in iOS

Disappointed with Google Drive and Dropbox in iOS

Just found out that neither the Google Drive or the Dropbox iOS applications fully support the Files API on iOS and thus I can’t set up folders in Google Drive or Dropbox in iA Writer. I had planned on moving all of my writing to Google Drive but that isn’t going to work with this situation.

Really bums me out when companies do this. It is fully possible via the API but they force users to their own applications. Boo!