Petestack Blog

17 May 2015

Balancing act

Filed under: Climbing,Cycling,Music,Running,Sailing,Walking,Work — admin @ 5:32 pm

Something I posted to Facebook a few hours ago that really deserves a more ‘permanent’ place here where anyone can read it. Facebook ‘friends’ can also read some nice responses over there. :-)

A strange tale of work/life balance, life/life balance, running, racing and depression…

As many of you know, 2015 was to be my last West Highland Way Race (with all the commitment that entails) before getting back to other things like fixing up the boat and doing more climbing. So I wanted to do well with 2014’s PW (personal worst) my main motivation for this final, final go. And my usual, slow-burning training build-up was starting to work with 22 modest running days on the trot through late January and early February before breaking the cycle for a windswept walking traverse of the Maoile Lunndaidh group and continuing more sporadically into March as frequently staying late to work with hitherto over-casual pupils started to mess with my routine and mind. At which point I found myself in the grip of a proper depressive episode (remember that ‘breaking point’ post?) as I saw no way of reconciling my work and play needs to provide the necessary platform for that satisfying final race and became angry knowing that the ‘prior’ claims of work would leave me forever feeling cheated here. But then my new boss told me I must run, to get home prompt one day and get straight out running, and we both agreed that running is the solution, not the problem (for which thank you, Rebecca!). After which I ran 40 from 46 days (proper runs!) through to that walking accident on the path to Carnmore and could have been looking at a respectable performance after all with a ‘big May’ to come. But now it’s all gone without killing off the Munros/Tops completion, I’ve been ambushed by a surprising sense of peace. In simultaneously really wanting and really not wanting to do that race again, it had *still* been getting me down, and it’s only now it’s gone *with work absolved from the blame* that something’s become clear; while running is still the solution (and will be again when the injury’s had some more recovery time), racing is part of the problem. Which is why there’s no going back on that ‘last year of running races’ thing despite the loss of the race that’s probably meant more to me than any other, and why you’ll *never* see me grace the starting line of that race again. It wasn’t just my work/life balance that was wrong but my life/life balance too, and the inexplicable accident that had me reduced to despair the night I did it has now proved to be the most effective depression cure yet!

If you got this far, well done, and thanks! :-)

25 January 2015

Microphone clip webcam mount

Filed under: Music,Work — admin @ 10:10 pm

Quite a departure here when most of the blog’s about my own outdoor or musical activities, but here’s something I made for work nearly three years ago, stopped using when upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 killed off webcams as full-screen, plug-and-play devices under ‘My Computer’, but thought worth sharing now I know how to get the full-screen output back…

It’s a webcam mount for a microphone stand, made from a cut-down broken microphone clip, and intended for demonstrating keyboard fingering or guitar picking/chord shapes to my music classes on the SMARTBoard (though simple screens would work just as well for those with computer projectors but no SMARTBoard because you don’t need the ‘smart’ interfacing for this). Hopefully obvious from the photos how to make one for a Logitech webcam at least, but the mic clip’s basically flattened off with the webcam attached by a cable tie which goes round the base of the ex-clip and through a hole drilled to keep it snug to that.

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When used with a boom stand, it’s then easily set up to show piano keys, either hand on guitar etc. and could obviously be useful for other non-musical demos as well. It’s no good with the supplied webcam software because you just can’t get full-screen live output from that when the whole point’s large-scale, live demonstration rather than recording, but back in service now Mark McLean found me a cheap-and-cheerful solution in VideoLAN’s VLC media player, which we already had installed on every school computer. Just select your webcam as video capture device (make sure it’s not your audio capture device first if you’ve got amplified audio output and don’t want things screaming!), click ‘Play’ and there you are! There’s a hint of time lag which might rule out a useful live Flight of the Bumble Bee, but won’t cause you problems demonstrating the kind of five-finger positions, simple beginner tunes, keyboard settings/screen output, guitar shapes and picking/strumming patterns you’re most likely to want on screen.


And that’s it really, apart from how you get it to where you need it when most webcam cables are pitifully short and standard extensions may result in no output at the length you need. But this one works fine with a 10m NEWlink USB2.0 active repeater cable and Mark’s now successfully tested the same cable with a number of different devices since we got ours, so there you go! :-)

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