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NullVoid » Music NullVoid » Music


Metro Singing Beyond’s “Under A Vast Sky”

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 -- By ET

A forever classic. I’m touched each time I hear it.


Now the original:


The One-Butted Pianist

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 -- By ET

Beautiful interpretation of Chopin, an Inspirational and passionate speaker.


Sara Schaefer’s Comments on the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 -- By ET
I got a phone call from Jennifer after the ceremony, they watched the opening ceremony on NBC, and Olivia was so touched and started to cry. They were not alone, the following post from Sara Schaefer said it. I checked out the comments of her blog entry, many people said the same thing. How can I not be proud of reading all these?
Ah, she obviously forgot about the Olympics rings made up with many tiny stars:

CT Oly0808029.JPG

8 Opening Ceremonies Moments That Made Me Crap My Pants
By Sara Schaefer

OpeningCeremonies16.jpgDuring the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies, we witnessed the sheer power and brilliance of what it looks like when thousands of individuals come together for one purpose: to blow your f*cking mind. Throughout the event, I felt a mix of wonder, awe, surprise, joy, inadequacy, terror, and self-hatred – in other words, I was either whispering through tears “It’s just so…beautiful!” or I was sh*tting my pants.

I’ll admit it, it’s a little frightening to see what a country as big as China can pull off when they put their minds to it. I wondered what was responsible for such perfection: a culture of teamwork and self-pride? Or an authoritative regime with significantly more control over their people than we realized? Either way, I had a hard time imagining the U.S. pulling off something with such human precision, and half the time I felt like a fat, lazy slob. In the end, however, there’s no doubt, I’m JAZZED ABOUT CHINA! Who needs human rights when you can have human LIGHTS?

Here are the most pants-crapping moments from the ceremony:



…this is what it might look like. As 2,008 drummers beat on drums that were thousands of years old (outfitted with some space-agey lights), Matt Lauer noted that the men were told to smile, because they realized this could be mistaken for a Persian-Army-esque battle cry. MY FLAT SCREEN TV DOESN’T ROLL UP LIKE FABRIC


The ceremony featured several light displays, screens, and electronic surfaces that seemed to flow as smoothly as silk. The grandest of all these was a giant LED screen that unfurled like a scroll. Do you think Circuit City will be selling these any time soon? PIN ART ON A MASSIVE SCALE


Remember those little Pin Art things we used to stick on our faces? Imagine it the size of a football field. While watching this, I couldn’t tell how on earth they were doing it – it didn’t look real. It was too fluid for machines, but I couldn’t comprehend how people could be doing this. Given what we’d already seen, I should never have underestimated them. At the end of this segment, thousands of men popped out from the boxes, waving happily. MY CURVES CLASS COULD TOTALLY DO THIS


From above, the 2,008 men doing Tai Chi in unison looked like crop circles. Because let’s face it, only aliens could make circles this perfect. LITTLE GREEN MEN


These guys lit up like Peter Gabriel’s light bulb suit from the Sledgehammer video. They moved around the floor like swirling beads of water, eventually forming a beautiful bird. Then, they came together and formed a replica of the Bird’s Nest stadium, all standing on each other, for at least 3 minutes, while a small girl flew above them with a kite. Seriously, how did they HOLD THAT FORMATION for that long??? Communism, that’s how. THIS OAR ISN’T HEAVY AT ALL! SERIOUSLY, WE’RE FIIINE.


These oars were probably over 12 feet long each, but they waved them this way and that as if they were feathers. WHAT NOW? I KNOW! LET’S BRING OUT A GIANT GLOBE!


I kept wondering what the HELL was going on underneath the stadium – to house all these thousands of people, and giant structures like the globe. And I thought backstage at my college’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was chaotic! Then, during the song, pictures of children from all over the earth appeared above and on umbrella-like things held up by another hoard of people on the floor. Was it super cheesy? Yes. Was I sobbing uncontrollably? Maybe. TINY EARTHQUAKE HERO + GIANT BASKETBALL STAR = HEART BONER


NBA star and Chinese Olympian Yao Ming walked alongside a tiny boy, who had not only survived the earthquake, but had saved two of his classmates from his school, where most of the children died. It’s just. Too. Much.Needless to say, it was a grand, beautiful, and inspiring event that I’m pretty sure made London say “Well, f*ck.”

More pictures:

OpeningCeremonies07.jpg The torch bearer shows us a new sport: fly-running! Also, note that this happened at the 4 and a half hour mark on my DVR. OpeningCeremonies24a.jpg Wouldn’t it be creepy if your saw yourself on one of those? OpeningCeremonies22.jpg The Tai Chi men do a move called “Collapse From Exhaustion.” OpeningCeremonies19a.jpg Last time you checked, little Fei Yen was in the backyard flying her kite… OpeningCeremonies17a.jpg I was at a party like this once in Prague. OpeningCeremonies15a.jpg I feel like I am at the Electric parade in Disney World! OpeningCeremonies13a.jpg Pop goes the army of two thousand men! OpeningCeremonies10a.jpg How did they know when to stand up, and just how high to go??? It boggles the mind. OpeningCeremonies11a.jpg At this point we heard the first of about 1 million references by broadcasters to the metaphorical “great wall” coming down in China. OpeningCeremonies08.jpg The torch burns bright, symbolizing China’s firey passion for perfection and pollution. OpeningCeremonies01.jpg We got the beat.
For some more pictures, check out BOSTON GLOBE.

Olympics and the Mummy

Friday, August 1st, 2008 -- By ET


Piano Diary (5) Comptine D’un Autre Eté

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 -- By ET


I started to play the above piano piece. It is called “Comptine d’un autre été L’après midi” by Yann Tiersen.

Basically, my biggest problem is that I don’t have time to practice. So I took a lot of short cuts. For example, for this piece, it does not require a lot of changes on the left hand. I only have from 10 to 30 minutes each day to play with the piano. Usually at noon time when I go back from work. I’d play for a while before lunch. After lunch, Ashley would be sleeping. In the afternoon, maybe I can get less than 10 minutes to play before dinner. Then it will be Alantha’s turn to play.

Note I used “play with piano” to describe my role. I just can not call this “practicing”. As soon as I can play with both hands, I started to try some difficult pieces, this turbe boosted my progress. It would take months of hard practicing if not years for others to even dare to try pieces like this. But since I do not want to be a piano master, I just want to have some fun. This approach works perfectly.

Copying Songs from iPod to iTunes

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 -- By ET


I need to copy some songs from my iPod Classic 80GB to the Mac.  Many programs fail to work here, for example, ipoddisk, isynctunes, etc (since the iPod is very new).

picture-1.pngOne software works greatly is called Senuti, I don’t know the meaning of this word, but it does what it was meant to do.  One tiny thing to note is that since I have many songs with Chinese titles, they became unrecognizable in iTunes.  The solution is simple, in the “preferences” menu, select “Always add songs to iTunes Library” and “Add Songs to Playlist” under “iTunes”.

I guess Apple’s concern about allowing people to copy songs from ipod to itunes is to prevent piracy.  It really doesn’t make sense.  Suppose my friend has an iPod, and would like to share the songs for me, it is easy to use the iPod itself as a hard drive and copy everything to my machine.  The only reason I wanted to copy songs from iPod to iTunes would be

  1. My computer crashed, or
  2. I need to copy songs among several computers and still keep the ratings, playlists, etc.

In both cases, Apple’s decision makes it very difficult for the consumers to perform legitimate actions with their own songs.

Piano Diary (4) Practicing

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 -- By ET

Due to my busy schedule in the summer. I did not get enough chances to practice.

But I managed to learn to play a few simple songs (oh, far beyond “twinkle twinkle little star”, “silent night” and “money isn’t everything”, these three appear in almost all introductory books, I could play them on the second day when I touched the piano).

I tried to practice with Czerny’s 599. I started from #11, reached the #20 in two days. They are quite easy if you use your knowledge in chords to play the left hand (my guitar experience got me some millage here).

Then I switched to play some songs I know, by adding simple left-hand rhythms. They sound amazingly nice! For example, “Everything I do, I do it for you” involves C, G, Dm, Fm. In the simplest case, pressing the 3 keys together once with the left hand in every measure gives nice sound, of course, right hand needs to play the melody, which is not hard for this song.

The next step is to practice the separation of the left and right hand. This is quite difficult for adults, because we are not trained (no other tasks need us) to use the two hands differently, especially when the keys are not hit in the same rhythm. There are two ways to deal with this: (1) play very slowly, but make it right (2) play both hands till you don’t have to think about the keys, then put them together. I found (1) is quite useful to me. (2) can be combined with (1).

Once I can play one song without any problem (usually in C), I experiment to play it in D and G. This way, I learn how to introduce the black keys, and be familiar with the sharps and flats. I’ll wait till I can play better in C to move on to add more sharps and flats.

I’ll try to put up some videos, but I simply don’t have to process a video now. To many things are going on, and there are at least 5 things reaching the deadline on Oct 3. So I’ll have to wait a little bit.

Piano Diary (3) Theory

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 -- By ET

During summer, I was traveling extensively.  From HK to Chicago, San Diego, LA, to Singapore, to Beijing, to Shanghai, to Boston, Minneapolis.  There wasn’t time to practice.

I used the time to read some music theory.  Basically, I think the following points need to be understood

  1. chords, how they are formed
  2. how chord inversion works
  3. key signatures, scales
  4. music notations, especially rhythm

I used to play guitar, so chords are not difficult to me, I found the chords in piano is much easier than in guitar. :-)

Chord inversion helps to reduce the hand movement, it can be very useful when you have to change the chord frequently.

An understanding of key signatures is useful, it is not that urgent to practice everyone of them, when there is a need, I can quickly start

There are some software packages to help people with the rhythm, I tried EarMaster, the exercise asks you to hit the space key on your computer keyboard to produce rhythms shown in the software.  It is useful, especially when you want to try a new song that you never heard.

To learn key signatures, a map called “the Circle of Fifth” is extremely useful:


So starting from C, moving clockwise, each new key is the 5th of the old key, each adds a new sharp (#).  So when we reach F#, we have 6 sharps.  This happens to be the same as Gb, which has 6 flats.

The small a below C means that a-minor uses the same key signature as C-major.

This would have been so difficult for kids, but for adults, this is not that hard to understand.

How I Saved my iPod from Drowning

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 -- By ET

ipodblack.jpeg Jade has been very absent-minded recently. I guess it has something to do with her working too much with Excel and PowerPoint till 1am sometimes.

Last week, I scheduled a lunch meeting with Sean, and she insisted to join. I was a few minutes late, when I arrived, she was jumping with my new ipod in one hand, and the the environmentally friends Harvard bag in her other hand. She did not check the lid before she put her drinking bottle into the bag, and the water leaked in the bag. The iPod in her hand is totally soaked. I can see water flowing in the screen, which still shows the “Now Playing” song.

She told me the iPod was off, and I do see the lock was on, so it must be the water that triggered up the iPod. I have heard many dreadful stories of getting iPod wet (or anything electronic device, for that matter), just search for “ipod, water” in google to see how common this issue is.

That was a less-than-one-month new iPod, so I did not want to buy another one. Before I want to take it to Apple service to try my luck (in Hong Kong, it would be a big hassle), I thought about ways to save this one.

The first thing I did was to put it facing down, so the screen and the buttons face the table cloth. This way, the water can flow out rather than diffuse within that metal back cover.

Then after lunch, I asked Jade to take it back and put it together with a dehumidifier in a closet. Jade did not do it, instead, she put it near a fan, and after a while, Nathalie turned off the fan. So when I came back home, the iPod was lying on the table.

dehumidifier.jpg I thought about cracking it open and drain the water, but I did not, this not only would devoid my warranty, but also might help the water to reach some sensitive parts in iPod. So I put it into the room with the dehumidifier.

It did not seem to work very well, as the dehumidifier only dehumidifies the atmosphere, even if the humidity is 0, the water would still be trapped inside. So I put the iPod near the vent of the dehumidifier. It blows out warm air. I switched the mode from “Dehumidify” to “Drying”, which was designed to dry cloths. It seems to be working, the next day, there was a box of water extracted by the dehumidifier, and the ipod feels warm, which can be helpful to evaporate the water.

After 2 days, I thought it was safe to turn on the iPod, so I did. It came up and showed a message saying “the iPod has little power left in the battery”. So I plugged it into my computer. The battery appeared to be charged.

But the problem came: after a few hours, the battery was still very low. And iTunes did not recognize the iPod.

appleadapter.jpeg So I unplugged the iPod, and put it into sleep. When I did so, I touched the power adapter of my laptop. It was very hot!

I guess the issue was still water, so I left the iPod on the hot adapter. After one day, I touched the iPod, it was very hot too. (The back cover is a piece of metal, no wonder!)

Then I plugged in the iPod again. This time, after charging the battery for a while, iTunes started to Syncronize. After I-don’t-remember-how-many hours, the battery indicates only got half charged. I did not want to charge too much, so I unplugged it, and started to listen to it. I think this has to do with the battery, and I want to manually calibrate it. So I left the iPod on till the battery is drained out of power.

Then I plugged in the iPod, and this time, it got fully charged.

I thus declare that I saved my iPod from drawning.

Something we can learn in the process:

  1. Do not crack open the ipod when it’s wet
  2. Just keep it warm for water to evaporate, do not use a hair blower (this one can destroy the LCD)
  3. Do not shake the iPod forcefully
  4. Be patient, be very patient, avoid to turn it on before you are 100% sure it is totally dry inside

Piano Diary (2) Programming for My iPod

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 -- By ET

How to effectively use iPod to learn piano/guitar is an interesting question.

In iPod/iTunes, I can generally generate playlists and give star ratings to songs I like.  And those with high star ratings should be the ones I focus on learning and practicing.  The question is how can I systematically manage my mp3 library to achieve this goal.

First of all, it is nice to find lyrics and chords for the songs.  And there are many websites offering them for free.  Usually the songs will be listed and there are multiple pages of them.  I wrote a program to grab (1) song name (2) artist name (3) lyrics (4) chords, and store them in a mysql database.  The perl modules I used are LWP, DBD::MySQL (DBI).

Then I can generate a list and search in my mp3 tags for these songs, using MP3::Taghttp://www.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-cpmp31.html provides an excellent review of the functions to process mp3 files with perl.

Sometimes, the chord file is stored in .rar format.  I can use Archive::Rar to process these files.  First download the file with LWP::Simple’s mirror (‘source url’,'newfilename’), then open and extract the content with this rar module.

What if I don’t have the song?  This is a good question, as if a song has a guitar chord, it usually means it is a good song, and I should get it. After matching with my mp3 library, I generate a list of songs to look for (now I have the title and the artist information from the chord library).  I simply search CDDB database to find out the album, and put it on to my wishlist on Amazon, all automatically processed (thanks to the API offered by Amazon).
Since I have thousands of songs, the process described here saves me huge amount of time.  It’s a lot fun to program these too.  The life is so much easier with so many of  ready-to-use perl modules.

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