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November 2018 – Kalen Lu

Quest

Around a month ago one of my old teachers from a few years ago had invited me to a workshop called “the Quest” that took place last week. I’ll try my best to describe the workshop and what we did.

From my understanding, the Quest has been around for many years. Each year there’s a different theme. This year’s theme was The Quest For Well Being: Making Connections, Making Commitments. The goal of the Quest is to educate participants about these different themes. You can read more about the Quest here.

The thing that I was doing along with multiple other students from other classes had to do with identity. The teacher said was that there would be an art project that people would along with recording a statement about themselves. The art project required you to think about various things you identify with and draw those things onto a piece of paper that had a picture of you glued onto it. The statement was one where you said something that other people might not immediately notice about you. For example, “I am more than an Asian boy with glasses”.

However, my job had nothing to do with the art project and more with the statements. The way our booth/station worked was that there would be a slideshow updating with different people’s statements. My job was to wait for people to upload their statements to a shared folder and then add the video files to an iMovie project. I was actually supposed to have a few more things to do, but there were other students there who were happy to do them for me.

Originally while we were setting up our booth at the venue, we had problems with the printer for the art project, but we managed to sort things out. We were also worried about not being able to keep up with lots of people coming since it was a pretty large event. On the other hand, when people actually started coming out of the auditorium where they were waiting, they weren’t who we were expecting. From what the teacher overseeing our whole project had informed us, we expected kids that would be doing our project. However, the people that were at the workshop were actually people like educators and board directors. Therefore, most people that walked by our booth didn’t really have time to sit down and take half an hour to do an art project.

Although our project didn’t go as planned, we still got a few people to stay throughout the whole process. One of those people was our old principal who we weren’t expecting to see. Even by the end of the day, the printer started having problems again.

In conclusion, the Quest was quite different from what I had expected. I can’t really say I had fun or that it was particularly a bad experience. One thing I was surprised by though while researching was that Justin Trudeau was a previous speaker at the Quest.

Intermediate Volleyball

This year, I decided to try out for my school’s intermediate volleyball team which is made up of grade 7’s and 8’s. The reason I tried out was that since I’m in grade 8 I wanted to try being on one of our school sports teams for once besides the track and field team. I did volleyball since it was at the start of the year without much school work to do, and one of my friends who already had volleyball experience said I should try out for the team. I’ll write about my experience since the season just ended this Tuesday.

At first, when I got to the first try out I was surprised about what the coaches were looking for in people for the team. They didn’t seem to care too much about the skills like spiking or blocking, but more so basic passing and serving. It would make sense if it was gym class and we were just learning the basics. This was just something I noticed. After the first try out the coaches chose a group of people for a second try out a few days later including me. I don’t really remember the second try out all that well except that we did pretty much the same things as the first try out.

After I made it on the team, there were a few of my friends as well as some other classmates I’ve had. There were a few grade 7’s I didn’t really know, but I pretty much knew everyone on the team already. Our team was quite small compared to other schools’ teams with only 11 people. This meant we couldn’t even play a proper six on six practice game with our own team. We had only one practice before our first group exhibition games. By the time we had our first game with other schools, most of our team just focused on getting the ball over the net on serves, passing the ball to our setter, and then setting the ball to my one friend who plays rep volleyball. We basically relied on him to score most of our team’s points since he could actually spike and jump serve properly.

Between our first exhibition game and areas, we had one more group exhibition and a few more practices. By the time areas rolled around, I don’t think much changed about the team besides improving our communication and basic skills. However, by improving those basic skills we went from losing or tieing all our games at the first exhibition to getting third at areas.

The areas were held at a school close to ours this Tuesday (Although technically you could say it was held at two schools). The way things worked from what I got is that there are two different schools that other schools gather at. Each of the schools’ gyms has two pools of schools. The top two schools from each gym meet at one gym and play against each other. I’m not sure exactly how they gave out the different placements though.

Our pool wasn’t too bad in terms of that many difficult opponents except for one powerhouse school that won all of their games before the other gym’s schools came. Out of our gym, we placed second behind that powerhouse school. I don’t exactly remember how many games we won or played after the other gym’s schools came, but we came third in the tournament. Our teammates and my friend’s older brother who also plays/played competitive volleyball were pretty mad after we lost our last game though. The referee called a lift on our setter’s one-handed set even though it was pretty obvious that it was clean. We lost the game 27-25.

Overall, I had fun playing on a team sport although our coaches didn’t really seem to care that much about organizing practices or games with other schools that much.

 

Almost Finished My First Guitar Arrangement

I’ve mentioned before about how I’ve started to use Guitar Pro to write arrangments, but so far I’ve only actually worked on one song for a while. There have been two songs I’ve done, but one of them I’ve only done the first few seconds of it. In this post, I’ll write about some specific things that I had a hard time with on a specific song.

The song I’m currently spending most of my time on is W: Wonder Tale. I pretty much chose it because I liked the song. I wasn’t really thinking ahead of time which aspects the song had that would make it easier or more difficult to arrange. One thing I noticed is that there’s a lot of things you won’t really notice in a song until you actually start looking for them. For example, when I was arranging W:Wonder Tale, there was often a bar or two of just sustenance of another chord. So for parts of the song it kind of felt empty. When I listen to the original song though, you can hear some of the smaller things that fill in the gaps. For this song specifically, it was mostly keyboard and synthesiser, so I decided to use some harmonics occasionally.

Another thing I’ve noticed with this specific song is the drums in it before certain song sections. Going from the intro to the synth break there’s a drum roll and going from the verse to the bridge section has a really noticeable fill. I wanted to include these things on the guitar, but I still can’t really seem to figure out the right sounds to use. For the drum roll at the beginning, there are two beats of sixteenth notes. On the guitar, I couldn’t figure out a way to maintain a roll for two beats, so what I did was replace the last beat with a bass drum and then snare hit. This works, but it doesn’t really sound like the original. The same problem kind of happens for the drum fills since it’s hard to find a sound the matches the toms on the guitar.

The last thing that I found difficult with this song was keeping the original feel of the song. Later on in the song where the chorus picks up, the song sounds really energetic and lively. I think this is because of the sustaining chords played by the synthesiser and the fast drums. The song is at 158 bpm which is supposed to be around the speed of Allegro, but slightly faster. Allegro is considered a “lively” and “cheerful” tempo which I think is true with this song. I couldn’t really capturing the liveliness of the song, but I think that’s just because I had a hard time sustaining the chords while also playing the melody. The chords in the song are difficult for me to hold while also playing the melody.

Overall, I feel like I learned a lot from just this one song. I think that the problem with capturing the individual feel of a song will always be something people who make arrangements deal with since it’s always different with each song. However, I still had fun making this arrangement.

 

Tablets For osu!

Ever since I’ve stopped playing as much Fortnite around a month ago, I’ve started to play a lot more osu! which I’ve made posts about before. The game is basically clicking circles to the beat of different songs.

Around a month ago, I went from the gap of rank #150,000 to #140,000. I’m also closing the gap on accumulating 2k pp (performance points) on my profile. Currently, I’m sitting at 1,944 pp which is a few hundred more than I had a few months ago. However, with these improvements, I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve gotten out of that #150,000 range my progress has slowed down. It shouldn’t really be because of school either because the plateau started only a little more than a month ago, and school has been going on for around two months now. In my opinion, I think I know why.

I think the reason why I was doing alright even after school had started was because I still had the consistency from playing over the summer. However, once I started to only play on weekends my consistency has gotten a lot worse. I mostly started noticing last week when my aim felt really off. Since I’ve started playing more 5-6 star maps, there’s a lot more aiming involved. I can pass some 6-star maps, but can’t pass even a 4-star map if it has a lot of jumps. I feel like since I’m not playing as much I used to, I’m using the mouse a lot more for other things like normal web browsing. However, using the mouse for osu! feels a lot more different. Now, whenever I get on once the week ends it feels really weird to adjust back to using the mouse to jump to random points of the screen.

The reason for inconsistency would be me using a mouse to play in my mind. A large part of the osu! community uses drawing tablets to aim which usually provides greater accuracy and more refined movements. Since tablets also use absolute location, wherever you point on the tablet is where your cursor goes on the screen. This resolves the problem of mouse drift where sometimes you run out of mousepad space. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great players like AngelSim and FunOrange who use mouse or at least used to and were successful. However, in their cases, they were/are able to play almost every day and play competitively. In my case though, I just want to get better at the game and have fun. As such, I’ve been looking at some drawing tablets for osu!.

The tablets that I’ve looked at include two models of Wacom tablets, a Huion tablet, and an XP-Pen tablet. The four specific tablets are the Wacom CTL/CTH 480, Wacom CTL 471, Huion 420, and XP-Pen G430S. The CTL/CTH letters are just the touch functionality of the tablet and whether or not it has it. That doesn’t really matter for osu! though. These four tablets are all pretty well know in the community for being the most recommended tablets for osu! players.

The two Wacom tablets from what I’ve seen are the best of the four. The difference between them is one is slightly inclined and one is flat although if it’s my first tablet I don’t think it’d matter too much. However, the one problem with these two tablets is that they’re discontinued products. The newer Wacom models seem to have lots of input lag and are overpriced for what they provide just for osu!. Being discontinued products you’ll usually have to get them second hand. Specifically, the 480 model is less common to buy. I personally think it’s because of one of the or the best osu! player ever (debatable) Cookiezi uses this tablet. At his peak, he was by far the best player of his time setting numerous records and plays. Even now he’s still within the top #10 rankings. I’d say he’s the most popular osu! player as of now and is a lot of players’ idol. For me, if I do end up getting a tablet it’d be either the 480 or the 471 since the company has a reputation for producing good quality products, and the community has given positive opinions in terms of input lag and the sort for both tablets.

The Huion 420 used to be the same model of the official osu!tablet which the website no longer sells. The company Huion has a reputation for producing good tablets for art at a cheap price, but their history for osu! is a bit controversial. Huion’s 420 model is marketed towards osu! players, but has a small active area of use. Another thing about the tablet is that it’s made of a lesser quality plastic, and people have reported issues with the tablet surface picking up pen movement. Although some people do use the tablet without an issue, I think I’d rather choose another tablet.

The last tablet is the XP-Pen G430S. This tablet has a reputation for being a good tablet of people that use smaller active areas. For me, I’m not too great with my pen/pencil precision in tight areas represented in my handwriting. Therefore, I think I’d prefer a tablet with a little more room to work with. If it wasn’t for that, I think I would choose this tablet instead of the Wacom ones. Overall it holds a good standing amongst the osu! community for its reliability.

In conclusion, I’m still not completely set on getting a tablet even though I’ve been thinking about it for a while. However, if I do I’ve come to a decision. I’ll see how things go with the mouse for a bit longer, and then perhaps we’ll see about the tablet.