Happy New Year 2021 · 1 January 2021
Happy New Year! It is 2021. Time for a new beginning.
I am not sure that I do one every year, but I like to wish my readers (both real and imaginary) a happy New Year. I know that 2020 was a strange year. Stranger than any we have known. Unless of course, you remember the influenza pandemic that happened in 1918-1919. And stranger than any election year than I have ever seen.
The strangest thing about 2020 was that the pandemic was about as polarizing as the election. Which is strange in and of itself. But I do not really want to write about the election or the pandemic. I just want to ask a simple question:
Can we perhaps start having civilized conversation again in 2021?
I know. It seems like a lot to ask these days. After all the prevailing thought nowadays seems to be: “If you do not agree with me, you are an idiot.” And the corollary to that is the simple polarizing thought. “Since you do not agree with me, you are an idiot.” Or more simply put, “You are an idiot.”
I marvel that we have come so far in terms of civilization and public discourse that we have gone to heaving epithets and curses at each other as a matter of course. Sometimes toward people who even agree with us. It is amazing to me that we cannot talk about anything with another person without having a referee present. And even then, things can be heated. And I am just talking about dinner conversation.
Okay. So much for last year. It was certainly not a bust, but I know that I am looking forward to a new year. After all, the New Year seems to symbolize a new start. So here are some things that I hope to start in the new year.
I hope to start exercising again. I hope to be done with Shingles (yes, the pain is still lingering since the last week of August). I hope to be on my computer less and to get my kids off their computers too. I hope to go outside more. I hope to play more music. I hope to create more art. I hope to finish more projects. I hope to be a better servant leader. And I hope to glorify God in all that I do.
My wishes for you are much the same as my wishes for myself. I wish you hope and health. I wish you creativity and calm. I wish you peace and prosperity.
A wish that I have for us all is conversation. Lots of conversation. About simple subjects. About complex subjects. About no subjects at all. And I even wish for us controversial conversations. Without the heat and angst and anger and name calling. Certainly with the emotions. And most importantly with civility and understanding.
The year 2020 is behind us. Perhaps COVID-19 will soon be as well. And perhaps we can leave some of our regrets and baggage behind too.
Happy New Year! I am looking forward to 2021 and its new beginnings.
© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi
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Everybody Needs a Green Screen · 26 December 2020
If you make videos, you need a green screen. Really.
I have been making video lectures for my classes for a long time. Way before the pandemic and remote learning.
My first tries at making video lessons were because I wanted to see if flipping a classroom was a good thing. Flipping a classroom is where students watch video lectures at home and do homework at school. It makes sense in theory because the students have the teacher there to help when needed. The teacher is right there when the students are doing homework. I thought that it would be great. I recorded C++ programming and physics videos in my garage studio where I set up my homemade whiteboard.
I am not sure about other people’s successes or failures with flipping classrooms, but my experiment with it returned mixed results. What I found was that since my classroom has computers in it (makes sense since I teach computer stuff), my students tended to watch the videos in class instead of at home. That made sense for my programming class. After all, I still did those lectures live and just had the videos there as supplemental material. But I thought my physics students would love the thought of watching the explanatory videos at home and doing physics problems at school where I could and would help them. Turns out that I was wrong. So I went back to giving those lectures live, and letting the students know that the videos were there as supplemental material.
That was the past.
Today, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and I had to make videos for my classes. Okay. Not completely true. I had already done most of my videos for C++ programming long ago. You remember, those crusty video lectures I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago. At any rate, I made some new videos to teach SolidWorks along with a couple C++ videos. The thing with the C++ videos I made was that I wanted to be more creative than I had been just giving lectures. Which is how I ended up making a video of me in two places.
It was a simple concept. I recorded myself writing on the whiteboard. Then, I recorded myself again in front of that board that had the writing and talked about the stuff that I had written. Simple enough. But what I wanted to do was start talking about the stuff before I was finished writing. Which I did. You can see the results on the video on my YouTube channel. It is not great. But it is not bad either. And it was fun to record and to put together.
Well, I decided that I needed to learn about green screen technology and color keys while putting that video together.
Color keys are pretty simple. You choose a color that will disappear from the video footage. I thought I would be clever with my video of me talking while I also wrote on the board. I thought I could choose white as a color key. Turns out that if you choose white as a color key, lots of stuff becomes transparent. Stuff that you do not want to be transparent. After my moderate success with putting myself on the screen with myself, I wanted to do more composite videos. So I decided I needed a green screen.
If you read my piece about not pressing the record button, you know that I got my green screen, and set it up with adequate, albeit inexpensive lighting. It was a fun process. In fact, I recorded my first setup of my green screen. I tried to make the video funny. Turns out it was too long, so I cut it down and posted it again. I got a couple views. But it did not matter. I had fun doing it.
Unfortunately, there was a problem with my green screen. It was in front of my whiteboard, which meant that I would need to take it down every time I wanted to use said whiteboard. I thought about using an old curtain rod, but then I would not be able to just pull the single green screen to one side. So I bought a ten foot iron pipe and put curtain hangers on it. I dangled that pipe from the ceiling and voilà! Green screen or whiteboard in an instant. I could change from one to the other just by pulling the green screen to one side. I was so excited.
I have not made too many videos with green screen technology, but I have had a lot of fun making the ones that I have made. And I believe there will be more in the months ahead. But who knows. All I know is that I can make composite videos any time I want. I also know that since everybody is a video creator these days, everybody needs a green screen.
© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi
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Merry Christmas 2020 · 25 December 2020
I was not going to write something special for Christmas, but then I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. Again.
I love to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. It is part of my own Christmas tradition. But the main reason I like to watch it is because of Linus van Pelt. Linus helps Charlie Brown understand the meaning of Christmas by quoting the gospel of Luke. It is the same story we read every Christmas. And we read it not because it is a nice story, but because it is history.
To be sure, the Christmas story is a beautiful story. But it would not be told without the gruesome events that happened around 30 years after baby Jesus was born. The Christmas story would not be told at all if Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection did not happen.
I marvel that Christianity is the only faith or religion that hinges on one historical event. If the Roman and Jewish authorities of Jesus’ time could have produced His body, we would not celebrate Christmas. If they could have refuted the claims of the apostles and other witnesses, we would not have any celebration of Christmas because Christ would not have come. And if Christ had not come, there would be no Christians at all.
Well, I am not here to start a Christmas debate. I am just musing and marveling. Musing that history would be so different without Jesus’ resurrection. Musing that people dispute the claims of the Bible because they happened so long ago, but ignore the fact that the accounts were written so quickly after the events happened. Marveling that the greatest person in all of history was born, crucified, and resurrected for my sake and for your sake. Marveling that one person could cause such a stir in the world even today. And marveling that we get to celebrate His birth each year in celebration of His whole life.
This year, Christmas reminds me I may not have started following Jesus because of history, but my faith is certainly made stronger knowing more about it. I am thankful that the writers of the New Testament wrote when others could dispute their claims. I am glad that they reported the facts of the events that happened. I am amazed that the Son of God came to this earth He created so that we might have a relationship with Him. And it all starts with Christmas.
A Charlie Brown Christmas was released in 1965, but it still stirs my heart today. That is because Linus tells the story that is the foundation of Christmas. He tells Charlie Brown and us what Christmas is all about. I am so thankful that Charles M. Schulz told the Christmas story in such a unique and powerful way. It is why I watch the show every year.
Yes, Christmas time is here. I wish you a very Merry Christmas.
© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi
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