DrumSensei

betwixt code and music

Getting to teach

(2 min read)

I used to teach music full-time. It was my identity and provided a way for my skills and personality to be useful to others. Teaching music provides a ton of adventure and busy-ness, and I prefer staying busy. I also love to perform music, either in the practice room or on a stage. Teaching provided me a way to play music and hear music constantly for many years. Connecting students with a passion for music and learning remains important to me and to our society.

When I decided to jump ship from the band director world, I fully knew that I would be "out of the loop," and I was okay with that. No longer would I instantly know the interconnected news of the band world like "so and so left that one school and is going to that other school next year." Since I would be less visible (or maybe even, gasp,
forgotten), then my teacher friends would tend to reach out to the other people that were still "in the game" if they needed some help for percussion.

I also knew that my chances to teach music every day would diminish. BUT this career change would allow me to spend more time with the family (that happened!) and be able to support our three kiddos plus my brother even better (that also happened!). Also, learning new things, especially about technology, and especially especially about creating new things with technology (i.e. "coding")…those are all
MY JAM.

The unexpected side effect of not having to teach my own program all of the time meant that I was available for my friends' students for the first time in years. Since I have a job in technology where we have a lot of freedom with our vacation policy (and I do not take advantage of it
😜), I make myself available from time to time to help some friends out in teaching their drum lines.

From the time that I announced that I was "
Switching Gears" in August 2015, I have been able to teach a handful of times. This has helped me to keep my chops adequately tuned-up and my teaching skills honed. Not to mention, the students at these groups were a blast to be around every day! Since I have been out of the game, here are some of the groups that I have seen since I "quit" teaching. (I cannot help but smile that I "quit" teaching…I definitely didn't quit, I just don't do it every day any more! 🤓)

  • 1 college drum line - 2 consecutive years
  • 1 Texas State Marching Contest champion drum line - 4 different weeks in two summers
  • 1 Texas State Marching Contest participant drum line - clinician and 1 week in one summer
  • 1 middle school percussion section masterclass

What a fun experience to be able to stop working on code for a short time to go work on guiding young people toward musical greatness! Y'all keep hitting drums, I will keep hitting my laptop keyboard!

In Memoriam: Mark Mathew

(5 min read)

My bride Melissa and I arrived in California today. We flew into Orange County's John Wayne International Airport. After getting our nifty Toyota Corolla rental car, we headed directly to Newport Beach to hang out. My very favorite comedy show ever is "Arrested Development," so I was excited to maybe see the Original Bluth frozen banana stand in person. Spoiler alert: not one there! However, we did see three dolphins playing near the pier!

I have learned some fun facts about Cali on this visit.
  • The FM 101.1 radio station has some fantastic jams, just like the one in Dallas…except the Big D version is 100% orchestral music!
  • You can order a combo at Del Taco and get french fries…this is unheard of in TX!
  • California has mountains! Very cool to see this after spending most of my life in Dallas.

On to my Dad…

My dad Mark Mathew passed away on Easter 2017 as a result of several long-standing health issues. As a Christian man who spent a long time playing in worship bands, this was a great day to arrive in heaven!

The story of how my mom, Elizabeth "Denise" Stephens, and my dad met and became smitten with one another is surely a good one. However, I do not have a good timeline on this due to conflicting stories and partial tales through the years. Some of the information herein is from both mom and dad, as well as my mom's best friend from high school Valerie Chapman.

My mom was a student at Lloyd V. Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas when the two met. The magic between the two must have been spectacular because they were married on 9/27/1977 when my mom Denise was 16 years old and my dad was almost 21. When I pressed my mom's friend Valerie about how this came to be, Val said that my grand-parents must have acquiesced because they knew that Denise was going to get married to Mark with or without their approval. It was best to keep her close by and let the newlyweds live together with them in the Dallas suburb of Garland. Valerie also said, "Your parents were SO ready to go to CA, to Haight Ashbury, but I know your grandparents wanted her to finish school." My mom and dad were trying so hard to be good hippies!

mark-and-denise-2

Valerie goes on:

"Can you believe I remember what I wore at the wedding? I stood by your mom. Of course, I thought she was all grown up. Though she did seem to have a bit of an "old soul." I remember your dad as having an easy smile, an easy laugh, and a desire to make people feel comfortable/happy. He was a big man even at that young age, and he was kind. He played guitar and sang really well. They had a band for a while . . . with Tommy? Mainly just jamming in the garage, I think. I think they finally moved to CA (or did he go back without her?) and things spiraled down. I didn't stay real connected, because I'd gone off to college and was real wrapped up in my life there. What I do remember vividly was that when your parents were together, in the happy days, they loved each other very much. They were very connected, and seemed to have a real strong bond and understanding. Your mom was very supportive of him, in whatever way was needed… They did seem like soul mates at the time, and maybe your grandparents hoped there was a chance. …I can tell you that you came about out of a real, strong love. Your mom was excited about you. I bet you already knew that.
🙂

I know that they shared some great times. There are not many photographs from this time period, but the ones I have seen are full of smiles and good cheer. Something happened in Texas, and my dad took me to California to be near his parents in Buena Park. Or maybe they both went to California together. It gets fuzzy. In any case, things seemed to go downhill after they moved with me back to Cali.

mark-and-denise-1

My mom Denise passed away on Christmas Eve 2012 after a life-long struggle with co-dependence and addiction. My parents sure celebrate their Christian holidays in a strange way, eh? Some of the artifacts left behind by my mom included several photographs from her Photography class at Berkner High School and just other general photos. Some of my favorites are included here.

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April 1, 1977 in Dallas, TX - Dinner just before the first performance of Led Zeppelin's final North American tour
left to right: Kim, Val, Mark, and Denise


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March 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


mark-3
February 17, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens

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February 9, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens

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February 7, 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens

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photo credit: Denise Stephens

mark-7
photo credit: Denise Stephens

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March 1977 - photo credit: Denise Stephens


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photo credit: Denise Stephens

Also among my mom's things from high school was a book of song lyrics. Imagine for a moment being a kid pre-internet. Knowing the lyrics to a song meant listening to it and writing the words down. Mom has hundreds of song lyrics in her journals, most from known artists, lots from her or her friends. Some of these song lyrics appear to be written by my dad. Well, the by-line reads "Mark King," but the last name is crossed out and replaced with "Mathew." Did my dad fancy a pseudonym?

As fun as it is to focus on the past, to consider where we come from, what those ancestors were doing when they were our age…we would do well to think about the legacy left behind by those who came before us. I am my dad's legacy. His other children—Stephen, Jennifer, Audrionna, Tyrene, Brittany, Tiffany—we are his legacy. His quick wit, his puns, his sense of creativity flow through his kids and grandkids to this very day. I truly regret not making more time to spend with my father while he was living, but the only thing to do now is honor his memory by spending time with the family we have left on earth. So much of my personality and traits come directly from my dad. I am so glad to be passing these great things down to my children, as well. Let's make him proud of us!

I will let my dad Mark have the last word here. This was the final message he ever sent me in Facebook Messenger, dated January 8, 2017, and I think it really sums everything up nicely, don't you?
Screenshot 2017-05-12 23.36.48

Browsing the Internet

(4 min read)

How do you consume internet websites these days? Is it through a web browser or possibly a native app? A literal ton of people are only using Facebook to see the internet. (As an aside, you likely have more than one family member who doesn't even know that Facebook is ON the internet. sigh…)

As part of my gig at Call-Em-All, I have been working with different web browsers to get everything working for all the peoples. Sadly, they differ vastly in terms of both a normal user experience and a developer experience. I have not used them all extensively, but I have thoughts on most of them.


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This may or may not have been my first draft at a browser notification

Sometime in the last several years the browser of choice became Google Chrome. While the legendary browser wars raged on many moons ago, I was so deep into percussion and music education that I could only see the smoke of retreating drumming adversaries. I basically missed the ascendancy of Google. I happily used Safari because it shipped with my Mac. Life was good.

When I went to code school to get my learn on, it was mandated that we use Google Chrome. The moment I opened up the developer tools, I
instantly understood why we should be using this tremendous tool. Holy cannoli, there is SO MUCH happening in the dev tools inside Chrome. If you are building the internet all day like me and my pals, this is a vital piece of weaponry to ensure victory.

But, there are others


As I have been going through the other browsers, I can see the subtle differences in each one. Firefox is still pretty rad. The dev tools are also terrific. As memory serves, the dev tools used to be Firebug, and it was one of the best ways to peek under the hood of a website or build it with more confidence. Back in my website youth nigh ten years ago I used Firebug to poke around and discover how people were building websites.

Safari is really clean and pretty. The developer tools are not as useful…or at least more of the functionality is hidden or less discoverable. Safari does some funky stuff with our app that doesn't behave anything like Chrome. I am still looking into how it uses "newer" CSS properties like flex box in a slightly different way.

Internet Explorer. I cannot mask my disappointment that people are
still using this web browser. If you use Google Chrome for a week and then go back to IE, then you would immediately understand. It's like driving an Audi and then going back to driving a Ford. However, our company has clients still using it. You know people who are still using it and hiding this secret shame from you. Several bigger companies have locked-down computers for their employees with Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 11. It definitely supports some of the CSS3 hotness, but it has its own unique flavor. Even big ol' Microsoft has said that they are no longer supporting this browser. They have moved on.

Edge is the replacement browser for IE. From the little I have used it, I wasn't a fan. But but but, it is a YUGE improvement over IE in so many ways. Its engine is called "Chakra," and I have seen grown men get close to weeping when talking about how awesome it is. When you hold it up against the prism of Internet Explorer, I can understand why they are excited. However, I don't dig it nearly as much.

Can I Use?


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The "Can I Use?" website has a good chart on approximate browser usage. I know for our small company client usage more or less follows this chart. Thankfully most people are using Chrome…and will have a pretty sweet experience while using a lot of the web.

Think about it like this: most people are using either Google Chrome or Chrome for Android. It is an overwhelming part of the usage of the entire internet. Also, I have it on good faith that nearly every web developer is building apps with Google Chrome first. I know there are plenty of examples like I mentioned above where a company just uses a certain technology for any variety of reasons (security, control over infrastructure, fear of change, et al), but I imagine most of those people are not using their sorry old browsers for personal use.

Yo, developers, check out the
Kangax table for all of your "which browser supports which features" needs. This table is totes helpful. On the surface level we can see which browsers are supporting a percentage of features. Below is the ES2015 né ES6 support for the major browsers. Poor little IE 11 is definitely sitting at the kids' table now!

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What can you take away from all this? Well, for starters, just download another browser for a day or two. It might feel like an impossible thing, but you might end up finding a better experience in the way that you use the web. You can also glean that since I use Chrome, then I am obviously missing your favorite part about browser x (yes, I am a noob). Also, the web is here to stay, so the more we can learn about accessing the web, the more impact we might have moving forward. If you build internet for a living, I am both surprised you made it this far (isn't there a JavaScript library you should have `npm install`ed by now?) and hopeful that you are thinking about browsers more. Either that or we should just resign ourselves to let Google own the universe.

😜