Coming home. Empty handed? Not quite.

Filed in Album ‘Serendipity 緣的根源', General

I've been in L.A. for just over 2 weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't get to do what I came here to do, and that was a very big let down, but I may be leaving with something much bigger.

Shortly after arriving in L.A., pressures from multiple sources combined with past injuries and bad habits led to serious muscle strain in my throat. It was so bad that I had to see an ENT specialist. After prodding from Peisha and another newly discovered friend, I made an appointment to see Dr Nasseri.

Dr Nasseri is not cheap, but when you find the right person, when you find the person with the answers, the cost doesn't matter. Major muscle tension dysphonia was the diagnosis, and the doc promptly informed Peisha over the phone what I needed to correct my problem.

Muscle memory is a stick in the mud, a problem that is very difficult to eradicate, but it is possible and necessary in my case. For the last week or so, and for the coming months, I won't be taking normal voice training. Instead, I'll be concentrating on muscle relaxation exercises, exercises that gradually teach me to relax as I sing and eventually forget the strain that was once part of my singing technique.

In classes with Peisha, we've already seen improvement, and we've seen glimpses of my voice's potential. Every breakthrough is an exciting moment, and there are more to come.

Patience is the key. Muscle memory is a pain in the neck (literally in my case). If progress is rushed, or if I try to sing something tough or beyond the middle of my vocal range, the muscles will remember the strain and reconfirm it. I cannot allow that to happen, not now that I have the chance to eradicate this problem once and for all. It may take weeks. It may take months. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that the problem is solved.

So, Project S continues but now at a slower pace. Only time will tell when Project S can finally be revealed to the world. Until then, we will all have to wait. Believe me when I say there is no one more impatient to see Project S become a reality than me.

But the prospects are good :-)

Stay well people.

(listening to Sara Bareilles' Gravity. Wow. This girl can sing!)

iPad Reflections

Filed in General, TechnologyTags: , ,

Before leaving home for L.A., I took possession of a new iPad. I knew I'd be carrying my computer with me wherever I went, and the MacBook Pro can get heavy after a while. I should clarify that when I'm in L.A., I invariably walk everywhere, only taking the public transport when I have to travel longer distances. It's not unusual for me to walk 4 to 5 miles in a single day while I'm here. Needless to say, my waist is getting smaller :-)

So, I brought the iPad with me. Right from the beginning, it has been a great help to me, especially allowing me to communicate with others when I couldn't speak (I can speak now btw). It's small, light, and the display is great. I have no idea how the PC companies are going to beat it except perhaps in I.T. and geek communities where access to everything under the hood is preferred.

It does have its flaws however.

Typing is difficult to get used to. You cannot rest your hands downward between taps because every contact with the screen types another character. It's also difficult to keep your hands in the right place positionally when you're typing. With a physical keyboard, you're calibrating your hand positions every time you press a key. It happens automatically. It's not possible with a meta-physical keyboard though.

To make things more difficult, I usually type using the Dvorak keyboard layout, and Apple has not provided that layout on the iPad. I hope it arrives with iOS 4.

Speaking of omissions in the current iPad OS, there's no Traditional Chinese on the iPad. Ouch! Hopefully, we'll see it with iOS 4 too.

And if you're a touch typist, the iPad might not be able to sense your fingers on the 'keyboard' when you're typing very quickly.

But all of those problems aren't overly difficult to deal with. There is one problem however that is potentially very serious. Ergonomically, the iPad is a nightmare.

The ideal posture for someone on a computer is to sit with the screen just below their horizontal line of sight, and with the keyboard lower than the wrists which are in turn lower than the elbows. That's not possible when the screen and keyboard are one and the same. The result is significant back strain and pain if you type for any length of time. I spent 4 hours today editing and updating my web site and I can certainly feel the pain in my back.

The solution is an external keyboard. The iPad supports Bluetooth keyboards, so I'm going to have to get one soon. Another advantage of having an external keyboard is that I'll be able to use the Dvorak layout again, because while the iPad doesn't provide a Dvorak meta-physical keyboard, it does support the Dvorak mapping on external keyboards. And incidentally, when using an external keyboard, you get to see all of the screen rather than just half.

There is one disadvantage to using an external keyboard though. The iPad by its very nature is interactive. If you have the iPad in front of you and the keyboard near or on your knees, the distance between the keyboard and the iPad will be a long way to move your hands every time you need to interact directly with the iPad. Oh well. You can't win them all.

Last note. Trying to edit a web site on the iPad is extremely challenging. None of the code editors available for the iPad are even close to being capable and useful editors, unless you're someone who can code with one eye closed. CSS and HTML editors on the iPad have a long way to go. If only we had something like Espresso on the iPad.

I need to stop now so my back can relax.

Take care all.

Mute, not deaf, but thank you for caring.

Filed in Album ‘Serendipity 緣的根源', GeneralTags: ,

The Friday before last, I did one of Peisha's lessons at home and then a few hours later sang again in a different kind of vocal training at a friend's place for another hour. This particular lesson of Peisha's was a hard one with close to 45 minutes of gruelling workout. Not long after beginning the other training session, my voice was already feeling tired.

The next day, I was made very aware of my error. I had developed something known as Supraglottal Muscle Tension Dysphonia. The muscles around the voice box had tensed up making speech difficult. The only remedy is rest, vocal rest. So I've not spoken anything since last Wednesday.

Here in L.A., I get around with my newly acquired iPad. Before coming over, I purchased a popular painting program for the iPad called Brushes. Now when I need to communicate with someone, I pull the iPad out and write the words on the iPad using Brushes. It's quick and effective.

The people here are great, showing understanding and patience. There have however been two unexpected reactions. The first is that many people respond by also speaking very softly. Perhaps it's a learnt rule when being polite that you respond in a conversation in a similar volume to your partner. Some of the people talking to me can get very soft though.

The second reaction which I've seen at least twice is that the other person immediately looks for paper to write their response on. The assumption is that since I can't speak, then I'm also deaf. They are of course unaware that I'm not mute, simply on strict vocal rest, but it's an interesting response anyway. What is bizarre is that I've also seen this reaction from my wife who is very very aware that I'm not deaf!!!

I'll be in L.A. for another week. Take care all.

Gary 譚偉權史上首個個人音樂會

Filed in MusicTags: ,

I'm off for L.A. in a couple of hours, but before I go…

We're going to see Gary's show in September. We have our tickets.

Are you going?


Gary's show

Inconvenience with an unexpected bonus

Filed in Album ‘Serendipity 緣的根源'

It's complicated.

Flying to L.A. was supposed to be relatively easy to arrange. We booked the flight with our agent in mid-late July, a full three weeks before the scheduled date of departure. The return flight was confirmed, and I was put on the waiting list of 4 flights from HKG to LAX. Going online to zuji, every flight of every airline was pretty full. Apparently, people were returning home after visiting the World Expo during the Summer holidays.

I stayed on those four waiting lists until the booking's deadline, and then my agent tried to keep me there because the return flight had been confirmed. It was only a few days ago that I discovered that Cathay doesn't allow someone to remain on a waiting list past the deadline. The rules are that you either 'publish' the ticket by the deadline or lose it, but you're not permitted to 'publish' a ticket if the seat hasn't been confirmed. So, your agent is forced to rebook your ticket each time the deadline is reached, effectively putting you at the back of the line every time. Cathay needs to do something to improve their system.

So, by August 8 just 5 days before I was scheduled to leave, I was still without a ticket.

At the same time, I developed a personal disability over the weekend. Without a ticket, and with this personal disability, I contemplated delaying my trip to L.A. until the end of August. If so, I realised that I would have more time to prepare for Project S and decided to take advantage of it. We would do more than originally planned! I contacted the team in L.A. and notified them of the planned change.

Then on August 8, we were having lunch with a large group of friends and acquaintances and discovered that one of them might be able to help me get my ticket anyway. On Monday, he confirmed the ticket for me, which was a good thing because it turned out that my friends in L.A. were not available to help me in late August anyway, so I'm leaving for L.A. on Friday as originally planned.

But what of the 'extra' I had planned? Well, when I informed my friends in L.A. that we were returning to the original schedule, two of them told me that they could still prepare the extra for me in time for my arrival!

So what do you get when I can't confirm an air ticket to LAX? You get something extra.

As for that disability, I'm working hard to temper it and hopefully have it completely subdued by the time I begin work on Project S in L.A. next Wednesday.

By the way, the 'S' in Project S stands for… ;-)

Project ‘S’

Filed in Album ‘Serendipity 緣的根源'Tags:

For more than a year, I've had this project in my mind, thinking about it, planning it, sometimes writing it down. Now however, Project S has become an actuality.

We've been working on Project S for several weeks. Next week, I'll be flying to L.A. to continue work on it, and you'll begin to see more about it soon after.

Part of Project S will entail a re-design of my web site. I have a basic design in mind, but need to find a talented graphic designer to implement it for me. As with all things, the beauty of the design will be in the small touches that the designer adds to my ultra-simple design.

Stay tuned.