Monday, December 22, 2008
Class is Fun (Sometimes)
we used an actual chalkboard in my favorite class
my interdisciplinary class this past semester was so interesting that i had fun attending it. in fact, i missed a class once and i began hitting myself over the head. i was missing out on so much good stuff! the class had some really long name, and it focused on the world’s current energy situation. the professor was a canadian, hailing from edmonton, alberta, which is six hours north from where i lived for grades 3 and 4. when i asked him about my town, medicine hat, he told me how he’d often drive through there. what a small world!
professor piers is an emeritus professor, and he returns to teach just this one course. he taught chemistry before he retired, and which gave him a lot of credibility when he’d discuss the efficiency of ethanol and the amount of energy gasoline contained. every class was a tremendous learning experience, and his lectures were so enlightening. i could tell that he had spent many years honing his teaching skills. we covered natural gas, oil, coal, solar, wind, and everything in between, and by the end of the course, i had a much better understanding of why obama is urgently pushing for alternative energy. after learning the facts, i can’t help but feel the same way. we need to move off oil as soon as possible and invest in alternative energy to power our nation.
over my career at calvin, i’ve noticed that great classes have a few things in common:
1. the prof is knowledgeable and confident. the religion department is filled with these kinds of profs. that’s why i’m a religion major.
2. students get involved. nothing like great discussions from students who care about the topic.
3. the prof lets students get involved. many a great discussion has been squelched by a prof determined to reach chapter 12 by october 11th.
4. in-class material is different than textbook content. i’m not attending a class to hear the professor repeat what i just read.
5. the profs believe in the course content so much that their enthusiasm spreads to the students.
those are the classes that i’m sorry to miss, and those are the classes that i hate to complete. i’d rather extend the semester than receive a letter grade on my final exam.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
our house mascot and i devoured that book in a couple of hours
christmas break is here, and i’ve spent my first few days of vacation relaxing. aaaaaah…! near the end of the summer, some of my friends plopped me in front of a television and introduced me to 24. i never watch tv. never. but i kinda liked 24, and so on and off during the semester, i’d watch an episode or two online. the show kinda makes me laugh and cry at the same time. i laugh when jack gets into terminator mode and takes out 1304123 bad guys at once. i cry when another good guy dies. the last few days i finished off season 1, and i’m now afraid to start season 2. i don’t want to spend my whole christmas watching this show… i think there’s 7 seasons or something.
besides watching 24, i’ve done my share of cleaning around the house. my housemates and i agreed to do a little end-of-the-semester cleaning, and our house is looking pretty darn nice. i’ll probably spend more time cleaning parts of the house, just to relax. i feel like cleaning is kind of like painting. one of my housemates paints houses over the summer, and he explains how he finds the work quite rewarding. the task can be quite challenging, and the finished result looks so good. he says there’s this great sense of satisfaction seeing a house transformed by your hard work, even if you just added a coat of paint. i completely agree—seeing the results of your labor is a nice luxury.
and of course, i’ve been cooking again. during the entire semester, i did minimal cooking and just bought my food at the spoelhof cafe. the food there is healthier than johnnys, and there are fewer students so the environment is much more subdued. oftentimes i’ll catch up on some studying while eating, and every thursday i’ll have a business lunch with my team and some calvin staff members. i just walked back from grocery shopping where i bumped into a friend’s mom. the nice thing about living in a neighborhood by calvin is rubbing shoulders with faculty, staff and students off-campus. after being here for 3 years, the area’s really starting to feel like home.
as christmas nears, friends are coming back from semesters abroad, and i’m oh-so-excited to see them again. last christmas i had a blast hanging out with friends in town, and i’m sure this christmas will be similar. there’ll be plenty of hot chocolate by the fireplace, board games, christmas music, and general snow-related shenanigans. nothing like a well-deserved break!
i know i haven’t written all semester. you can find out why by looking at the calvin homepage right now and clicking on the news item about a t-shirt business. when the news item is removed from the calvin homepage, you can read the article here.
i’ll be writing much more later. ah, a vacation feels sooo nice right now!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Selling My Drumkit
sitting in my basement studio to the left
i knew this day would eventually come, but i’m dreading it. i just spent the last few hours taking photos of my drumkit, researching its specifications, and typing everything down… all in preparation to sell it. really, it’s not a big deal because i’ll still be playing drums, just using calvin’s chapel drumkit and practicing there instead of at home. i can also buy another drumkit in the future, probably even a better one that will make me forget this one. but for some strange reason, i don’t want to sell it. i’ve spent three years with it, and we’ve gone a long way together. i have great memories setting it up in my dorm room on 3rd beets, playing almost every day during loud hours, taking it to occasional shows, and teaching lessons with it. how can i become so attached to an inanimate piece of wood?
i have a friend that feels the same way about guitars. he told me one night that he’d like to fall asleep on his bed with his guitar, like a child sleeps with stuffed animals. then he proceeded to poetically describe how guitars are constant and loyal, unlike people. he loves his guitars like he would love a friend.
at the time, i thought that was a little odd, but in the back of my mind i understood. now i’m experiencing something similar. but i don’t think it’s right. the danger of being too attached to material possession is a reality. i feel like i could easily become a pack rat if i didn’t watch myself.
i have a friend who called himself a pack rat, and he took drastic measures for change. he literally sold or gave everything away and remained with two suitcases. there was extra incentive for this selling spree; he had just become the drummer for a touring rock band and he couldn’t afford to lug his stuff across canada. the next time i saw him, he was just down to a backpack. i asked him how he felt. he looked at me, smiled, and said he’d never been freer in his life. he doesn’t have to worry about his stuff, and he can spend his shopping and research time in ways that really matter - by spending his time with friends.
my friend’s story reminds me of that scripture passage where Jesus invites the rich man to sell everything he had and give it away to the poor. if material wealth was preventing him from reaching his full potential as Christ’s disciple, then he truly needed to get rid of his possessions. i’ve heard pastors soften that passage before, saying things like, “but really, Jesus didn’t mean for all of us to sell everything we have. that would be utterly ridiculous.” but what about those in the audience who are addicted to stuff, the ones whose closets look like a new york subway during rush hour, and whose curbs are constantly lined with salvation army donation bags filled with old clothes to make way for the latest ralph lauren clothing line.
when i lived in hong kong, some of my high school friends chased after the latest cell phones. i went to a private school, so most of the kids were pretty well off. every month, they would come to school flaunting the latest cell phone. the phones i saw then are just coming out in america. i don’t blame them, their parents did the exact same thing. is that a lesson i want to teach my kids? will i say, “son, it’s important to have the latest cell phone model.” or worse yet, will i say, “we need to support an orphan in india, and we’re gonna be sending $20 a month to a charity. this is what Jesus wants us to do. a picture of the kid is on our fridge, have a look,” then shortly after i say that, i return to my online shopping, researching the latest Google Android or iPhone developments and plotting of ways to switch phones without incurring a loss. actions speak louder than words, and my son will see right through that. sometimes these hard-hitting passages don’t need to be softened. after all, isn’t the fact that the passage is being softened proof that it’s hitting a little too close to home? that makes me feel uncomfortable, so i’m going to defend myself against it and soften its blow a bit.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
My Essentials To Life
the essentials to fulfillment
there isn’t really much i need in life. anyone who takes a look at calvin edeals, grand rapid’s craigslist, or the marketplace listings on my facebook profile will see things that i’m selling off. the sayings are true (at least for me): material wealth doesn’t bring happiness. rather, it’s the work that i do and the joys of new challenges. in the photo above, the items on the table are my essentials to life. i didn’t fully comprehend it until i walked into my dining room to finish some writing. i took a step back and looked things over.
my favorite sony mdr-7506 headphones lay to the left and function as my gateway to a mysterious world filled with chord progressions and drum beats. its flat frequency response gives me an accurate picture of the mix, not some super bass boost extended highs cut mid scoop distortion of music. boy, that sounded incredibly condescending… i guess i’ve found a pet peeve.
to the headphone’s 2 o clock is my wallet along with all its good stuff. it’s a little chubby right now because of all the quarters i need to take the bus. nestled next to my coins are some guitar picks, for the guitarists i hang out who always forget their picks (i’m always surprised by how often that happens… that’s like a drummer going to the gig without drum sticks), and earplugs for loud concerts, lawnmowing, drumming, etc.
below my wallet is a bowl of rice and a fried egg. food to keep me energized throughout the day. add some soy sauce and you’ve got a carb-loaded, protein-filled bowl of energy.
for more energy, consult the bag of chocolate chips behind the handle of my spoon.
tucked away under my chocolate chip bag is a business card from a company i might work with to order some CDs. i’ve got a stash of business cards in my bedroom somewhere from businessmen i’ve met over the years at conferences, functions, company launch parties, and other networking thingies.
then there’s my laptop, with a stickie note listing out my tasks for the day. i’ve established a habit for writing down next day’s todo list before i go to bed. i also leave a notepad by my bed in case i think of an idea. that way i can jot it down and get it out of my head instead of mulling it over.
something that isn’t on the table but still essential to my life is what’s outside the window: the great outdoors. i’ve realized that i need to see outside, or else i get cranky, irritable, and frustrated. i spent one summer working in a windowless office, and i’ll never do that again. creatives need an inspiring work environment, and the great outdoors always bring inspiration.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Remember the Garden?
a vibrant, healthy, edible garden!
thanks to emily’s hard work on a saturday morning, our garden looks great and weed free in this photo. during the spring, i blogged about planting a community garden in my backyard with emily’s house. after some hard work and money, we’ve gotten to literally taste the fruit of our labor. we had varying degrees of success with different plants. for instance, out of all the bell peppers i babied as seedlings, only one survived the harsh outdoors. both of the more developed plants that cutter bought from the farmer’s market survived. most of our corn disappeared, but the ones remaining are growing strong. about half of our cucumbers survived, and almost all the tomatoes are thriving. the fence prof. nyhof donated did wonders fending off rabbits, and i’ve yet to see any wounds on our plants from gnawing rabbits. overall, i’m very pleased and excited at the result, and the vegetables have tasted delicious. there’s something about bell peppers on my pizza fresh off the stalk from my backyard. the miracle of food never ceases to amaze me!
baby cucumber that will be edible soon
bell pepper tucked away amidst leaves to the left
corn as tall as i
tomatoes growing from prof. warner’s plants
the weeds emily pulled in preparation for the big photo shoot
cutter enjoying a really baby carrot
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 3
lots of people helped out in various ways
lesson #4: everyone involved deserves to have a say. for a 2 hour event, a lot of preparation and cleanup was required, and a lot of people helped out. if people weren’t aware of or didn’t believe in the long term vision, i would not have their support. people wouldn’t spend the afternoon baking vinyl records and molding them into bowls if the activity wasn’t worth their time. they wouldn’t stand by the popcorn maker ensuring that nothing burns. they wouldn’t drive in a couple days after the event to mop the floor. they wouldn’t lug all 4,000 sq. feet’s worth of furniture back to its original position. they especially wouldn’t lug that heavy furniture if they were by themself (thanks cyndi!).
just because they believe in the event and are willing to bust their butt doesn’t mean i can abuse their hard work. no, i value and appreciate their effort, and i do whatever i can to express that. sometimes that can be some money and a sincere thank you. sometimes that can be a handwritten thank you card and fresh flowers. sometimes that can be dinner and time spent together. sometimes that can be a coupon to a massage parlour, to work out the soreness accumulated from physical labor. the tricky part is that i risk being perceived as flippant with my thanks, or that i don’t value people enough for their effort. i guess my rule of thumb is to do more than necessary to express my appreciation, rather than guess what’s “enough” and assume the floor mopper got the appreciation she deserved. Shane Claiborne, a Christian who wrote down “professional lover” as his occupation on a high school alumni survey, said something in his book that i’ll never forget. he believes that Christians have lost the desire to “love creatively.” if all Christians went above and beyond in the way they showed their love and appreciation for others, whether these “others” are Muslims, homosexuals, pro-choice advocates, or terrorists, Christians would have a very different reputation than they have now. Christians would be naive optimists, always believing that human beings are fundamentally good, even though there’s evil in the world. sure, i don’t understand why there’s evil in the world, but i sure know how i can respond.
so back to lesson four, that everyone involved deserves to have a say. i didn’t do the best job of keeping everyone in the loop. after all, before i can form an opinion about anything, i need to at least be involved. i didn’t involve everyone to the degree that they should have been involved. involving people takes time, and often times i misjudge my time and rush things. in retrospect, i should have spent more time with everyone involved and asked for their opinion. great ideas come when people put their minds together, and ideas come to fruition when everyone believes in them and naturally acts on them.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 2
the LAME crew setting up the sales booth
the third lesson was KISS: keep it simple, stupid! it sounds so simple, yet it’s so difficult to pull off sometimes. in his interview on the “live at abbey road” television series, john mayer talks about his hit single, gravity, and how he struggled to hold on the the KISS principle. he explained that as the musician who wrote the song, he was well aware of how sophisticated the song could be. anyone who knows john mayer knows that he’s a phenomenal guitarist, and he could easily fill songs with line after line of blistering guitar riffs. but mayer fought his own tendencies and sought to strip down and simplify the song, and the end result is a simple, yet beautifully effective song.
while organizing this concert, i felt like john mayer. i knew that i could really pull off something stunning, with spotlighted mannequins modeling LAME t-shirt designs in chronological order, as a sort of history exhibit. i could have brought in an expansive concert lighting rig because i know how to run lights. i could have multi-track recorded the live music for later mixdown at one of the music studios i know. i could have brought in an elevated stage for the VIP seating area so VIPs would have a clear view over everyone’s heads, and i could’ve brought in stanchions to surround the whole rig. servers could have taken orders from VIPs and delivered it straight to their section. i could have added a lot of STUFF to improve the concert experience, but i held back to keep things simple.
by keeping things simple, i could cut costs and reduce ticket prices, thereby freeing up attendees to spend their cash on merch and food. i knew that i couldn’t pay the bands what they deserved, so i at least structured the floor plan to funnel traffic by the bands’ merch tables, in hopes that people would buy band merch. the floor plan worked well, because the area in front of the merch tables got plenty crowded. i know LAME sold a couple dozen shirts, which gave them a profit. i didn’t dip into any of the merch sales; the artists received 100% of the money from their own sales. i was tempted to take a percentage cut out of their merch sales, but i knew that if i was the artist, i wouldn’t like that. so i didn’t do it, nor will i ever do it. by keeping everything simple, i saved a lot of gray hair and i was able to sleep well at night because my brain wasn’t focused on developing and implementing new ideas. and if any ideas did come up for the future, i always keep a notebook and pen by my bed to write them down. then i can sleep.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 1
one company, three bands
facebook marketing is viable! i’ve been experimenting with marketing strategies targeting certain demographics, and because facebook is well connected with grand rapids college and high school kids, i centered my marketing campaign around this online tool. i invited my friends at LAME Studios to merge their company launch with my concert, and they put some serious work into getting the word out. i’m very grateful for the work they did, and i’m looking forward to the next collaboration because we know we’ll do even better. LAME Studios was started by local high schoolers, so they really got the word out to their high school friends. as expected, a lot of high schoolers showed up, but the number that showed up was still less than the confirmed guest list on the official facebook event.
that leads me to my first lesson: mass invitations don’t produce as accurate results as speaking with someone in person and asking for confirmation in a facebook event invitation sent later.
LAME Studios and their friends put in a lot of hard work on promotions, which freed me up to ensure that the experience was great. that wasn’t too difficult; i can just imagine myself as one of the concert-goers. if i went to a concert, what would i expect? affordable tickets, great performances, great music by bands that i liked, water that doesn’t cost $5 but is free like it should be (i hated how some venues turn off their water fountains so people are forced to buy drinks… people just get annoyed and drink from bathroom faucets), good food priced reasonably, and good sound. i gave it my best shot, and i know i came up short on a few things.
so, the second, multi-part, lesson: first, popcorn should not cost $3, even if it’s a heaping bowl. we didn’t sell a single bowl of popcorn. second, we had great drinks that were priced at $1 for a tall glass. good value, yum yum, many purchases, will do it again. third, we had two ticket options, online pre-sale e-tickets for $3.50 or pay $5 at the door. although pre-sale tickets were cheaper, only 4 people bought them, while everyone else paid at the door. i know that over 30 people visited the link to purchase tickets, and my guess is that no one bought any because (1) the ticket dealer wasn’t a reputable one like ticketmaster, so they thought it was sketchy, or (2) they weren’t given a credit card payment. i highly doubt that number 2 is the reason, because i picked the dealer because they accepted credit cards. so i should either find a reputable ticket dealer that doesn’t rip buyers off (like ticketmaster does with absurd service fees), build a reputation with my ticketing system over time, or just scrap cheaper pre-sale e-tickets and get everyone to buy at the door. actually, i just remembered this technique by a battle of the bands promoter somewhere. bands are given a stack of tickets, and they must sell a minimum to play the show. promoters are also given stacks of tickets to sell. we skip ticket dealers that charge ridiculous service fees, fans and buyers get cheaper tickets, bands know their friends will show up, and the venue can pay the staff that ensures a hospitable environment. everyone wins. food for thought, and i may adopt this strategy in the future.
because of the lessons i’ve learnt, i can almost guarantee a better sophomore effort. in the meantime, i’m reflecting on my freshman effort and crying over my mistakes. well, i’m not crying, but i’m not afraid to admit that i failed financially; i lost a substantial amount of money (i won’t reveal the amount because my parents will read this and they’ll think i’m broke, which will lead to a phone call where they’ll want to send me money, and then i’ll refuse their generosity because i want to stick it out on my own and learn from my own mistakes, not because i’m proud, but because some lessons need to be learned the hard way to really stick), but i know that money isn’t everything, and what’s more important is the experience. from preliminary feedback, people had a blast and really enjoyed themselves. i need to remember that the core of live entertainment is ENTERTAINMENT, not “let’s milk as much money as we can out of the crowd.” i don’t want that kind of reputation as a concert-promoter, nor do i want people helping me out to be linked to such a reputation.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Website Release: A Live Recording of Dean Windemuller
in a previous post, i leaked an audio widget featuring live recordings of my artist, Dean Windemuller, at Four Friends Coffeehouse. now the entire concert can be downloaded for free, and the website also features photos from the content. i also need your help. the site has a poll where listeners can vote on the song they think should be Dean’s next single. i can’t release too many details, but we’re speaking with a music company that can pair Dean with a grammy-award winning producer. we’re not sure if the deal will go through, but we need to anticipate moving quickly if it does. anyway, please visit the website, check out the songs, and vote for the next single.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Local Spotlight: Woodland Mall
where almost every middle school and high school kid shops
Woodland mall is a half mile south of Calvin, and although it’s not the largest mall in the city (Rivertown mall in Grandville is larger), it’s got everything most people need. Well, except groceries. But people living in the dorms don’t need to worry about that because they have dining halls. Only us old blokes buy groceries and cook food.
Clothing? Check. American Eagle, Banana republic, j crew, etc. it’s the center of American fashion. And because it’s American fashion, none of it fits me *sigh* Maybe if I gain 50 pounds and grow 4 inches taller, I can move out of the children’s section.
Movie theatre? Check again. The world’s most movie obsessed culture has a Celebration Cinema at Woodland mall. however, this cinema’s special; it shows past movies for a mere $3. I watched 21 there not too long ago. Cool movie, but I don’t really have the attention span for most movies. The whole idea of sitting there for 2 to 3 hours makes me shudder a bit. I just want to DO something productive and make the fun happen, not sit back and let directors dictate what’s fresh and exciting through formulaic Hollywood plotlines. oh, here’s a spoiler for 21… it’s a happy ending.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The Things That I Do
the largest tracking room, which houses the electronic kit
there are some days when i just shake my head in disbelief. one weekend, dean and i went on a lil road trip to meet with my friend and his boss, who founded a music company in the region. the company’s going through a relaunch, so i can’t really give out any details (such as names and locations). they’re currently in soft operations mode, and i think that means they’re fully functioning but not officially launched. anyway, part of the music company is a fully-functioning recording studio, and because dean is looking to record new material, i decided to introduce him to the studio to see the facilities and meet the operators. we had lunch, chatted about life, then let the operators do their thing as they gave us the tour.
thousand of dollars in about 4 square feet
we ended up sitting in the control room comparing their work to the mixes from other major studios in the area, mackinaw harvest’s studios and river city studios. and for reference, i threw in one of the songs i was well familiar with, which wasn’t produced by any of these studios. the song was very well produced because the group performing it had money to blow. sadly, i can’t remember the song title, but i remember the group… ‘n sync. so here we are, jamming out to ‘n sync on the board that mixed ricky martin’s breakthrough album. like i said, sometimes i shake my head in disbelief.
shipped up from miami by a grammy award-winning producer
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Concert Stream: Dean Windemuller Live at the Four Friends Coffeehouse
Seventeen songs. We recorded the marathon setlist, and we’re putting it up for streaming here. Thanks for coming, and for those who couldn’t make it, we’re sorry you missed out and we hope these tracks will somehow share the experience. If it wasn’t for those who came, he’d be playing to an empty coffeehouse, because no one goes to a coffeehouse on a Friday night when it’s competing with a happening bar district. I said there would be free songs, so here they are. Photos and downloads will be coming soon! A BIG thanks to Josh Wienczkowski for his help recording the live audio.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Behold, A Garden
night-time planting with headlamps makes for dramatic shots!
it all started with a random conversation over lunch with my blogging neighbor, emily. i can’t remember exactly how it went, but probably something like this:
me: so i’m thinking of starting a garden
emily: really? you’re so awesome!
me: gee whiz, thanks… hyuck hyuck… shucks *blush*
emily: i want to start a garden too, but our yard doesn’t have space. can i come over and garden too?
me: i know, let’s make it a community garden in our backyard between your house and my house! then you girls can come over whenever you want and work on the garden and eat the yummy veggies.
emily: and we can bring over our mint plants and grow green peppers, and onions, and broccoli, and… and… and.. and..
me: yeah yeah yeah!
and now, around 2 months later, we have this:
you can’t really see it, but seedlings are sprouting!
except for lines 2 and 3, this conversation was the inspiration for us to dig up a chunk of my backyard lawn to grow a vegetable garden. we didn’t do it by ourselves though; we got lots of help from friends and professors: our landlord, who used to work for calvin’s service learning center, gave us the ok to dig up her lawn; professor dave warners, my bio 111 teacher and a botanist, helped us plan our garden; professor warner’s colleague, professor rich nyhof, lent us his advice and rototiller, and he also gave us his used garden fence to keep out rabbits from eating our veggies; my friend, bio major, and housemate david cutter provided advice and manual labor; and emily and liz from the girls house helped dig lots of lawn, even during finals week. oh, and i haven’t mentioned our great neighbors who’ve supplied us with extra shovels when friends like emily and liz come over to dig.
Free Concert + My 21st Birthday Celebration @ GR Downtown
yes, this is pulled from facebook, so you can search for the event there and view the entire event profile!