Romey's Ramblings

Random musings of Jeromey Balderrama

May 3, 2018
by Romey
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Drumming to support St. Jude’s

I’m honored to be taking part in the Drumming Up Hope Foundation’s 3rd annual Drum-A-Thon to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals.  On Friday, May 25 at 6 pm, I’ll be doing my part to carry on the 81 hours of continuous group drumming over 4 days, and am looking for generous souls to sponsor me in this cause.  100% of your donation will go towards St. Jude’s Children Hospital.  Any amount, no matter how small, will go a long way towards supporting this great cause.

Donate $10 – Request A Drum-along Song

While drummers are taking various approaches to their hours, I am dedicating my time to playing along with requests made by donors. For every $10 you donate, you can request any song and I’ll add it to my drum-along mix and will send you a video later on if you’d like.  Do you have a favorite song that has an awesome drum part? Perhaps you have a song that you’d like me to give my take and provide a drum remix? Maybe you’ve always wanted to hear a heavy drum remix to one of your favorite Disney songs? You could even just mess with me and throw me a curveball in the form of a classical song – I’ll play anything you’d like!

I only ask two things of your request:

  1. That it clocks in at less than 5 minutes or so (no In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida unless you’re willing to donate $40)
  2. That there’s a clean version of the song since the event is family-friendly.

Use the button below to donate and write your song request in the “Special Instructions” or email it to me at romeyinfc [at] Gmail [dot] com.  If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, please email me and we can set up alternate arrangements.

[Removed the button since this is now over – thank you to all those that helped!]

Also, I’d love for you to come out and join me at the Drumathon at Thunder Mountain Amphitheatre in Loveland. Admission is free and I’ll be there Friday, May 25 from 6pm-7pm, but the drumming start 10 am Thursday, May 24 and carries forth through Sunday, May 27 at 7 pm. Bring your own ear plugs!

Thank you so much for your support! I’m super pumped for this awesome event!

May 1, 2018
by romeyinfc
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Photographing Undercover Bear

I need to confess something. I really hadn’t used my DSLR since Christmas before taking these pictures.   This has been in large part of being busy, but also in part that my iPhone has been pretty good lately capturing snapshots of my family, combined with the fact that many activities have been out in the winter weather and didn’t want to risk the elements damaging my equipment – not the best solution, I know.  My band also spent most of the winter hunkered down and recording, not playing many shows and thus not many opportunities to shoot bands.

Undercover Bear asked us to play their CD release show in late March, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play with the Whisk(e)y’s lighting. Undercover Bear did an awesome job in creating some really memorable moments in their shows, with their choice of instruments, solos, changing off singers and even a wardrobe/accessory change.  They had a packed room and awesome crowd, which made for a fun shoot.

April 20, 2018
by Romey
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Why Google Chat won’t fix messaging

Exclusive: Chat is Google’s next big fix for Android’s messaging mess

The fact that they’re looking to fix Android’s messaging mess and not everyone’s messaging mess is why this will probably fail yet again.

Real-time messaging (be it SMS or real-time chat) is an absolute cluster, not for lack of innovation, for an inability to reconcile the needs of the users over each company’s own goals, resulting in some very draconian restrictions.

I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts for well over a decade, in daily conversations with my wife and family.  We have a basic set of needs:

  1. Enabled for real-time chat
  2. Ability to receive and respond to notifications across both desktop and mobile phone
  3. Group chat capability
  4. Ability to share pictures and other media
  5. Have a large user base and a lower barrier to entry for new users

Hangouts has been solid but also is neglected by Google.  Now their latest focus is to shift Hangouts for Enterprise use and deprecate it for consumers.  Supposedly they were steering everyone to using Allo, and I remember being very excited its pending release – and then it came and underwhelmed.  What made Allo fail out the gate was the fact that it was tied to your phone number and only one device, so you couldn’t use it from a tablet, let alone a desktop.  Over a year later Google came up with this jenky workaround to have your phone forward chat notifications to a desktop, but worked unreliably and required you to have the app open on your phone.  Given they hampered a key feature of Hangouts, it all but wrote it’s failed destiny and is why it hasn’t been adopted.

I don’t see much difference with Chat. From the article, it seems to be driven by whether carriers will pick up the protocol. That’s well and good to get Android the same features that iMessage enjoys on iPhones, but does little for anyone else on the desktop or using an iOS device. By limiting their goals, Google will once again doom themselves to failure.

I’ve looked a lot of other messaging tools, but each one has its own set of problems. iMessage is designed to promote the sale of Apple devices, which is why you won’t ever see a Windows or Android client (removing #2 and #5). Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp are all great apps with a lot of functionality but don’t have a big userbase and it’s hard to compel people to switch (with the caveat that WhatsApp is big for my international friends).  Facebook Messanger comes closest in terms of offering all the features, but feels really slimy and intrusive to use – and yes, I know that Google reaps the same benefits from inputting my personal information, but you’ve seen a lot more callous coming from Facebook lately.  Skype has been pivoting more into the messaging space, but they’ve had a bad spam problem and I’m not convinced people’s Skype contacts reflects all of their everyday chat contacts. The only time I go to Skype is to make a video call.

If Hangouts vanished overnight, I think I’d reluctantly migrate most of my activity to FB Messager.  It’s frustrating that Google is one few companies that has the clout and wherewithol to tackle this problem, but they’re hampered by their own blinders.  Until then we’re just confined to the ticking clock of neglected consumer Hangouts.

March 4, 2018
by Romey
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Seeing Hamilton

After over two years of falling in love with this musical through the Original Broadcast Cast Recording, Bethany and I were lucky enough to be able to see Hamilton on their traveling tour through Denver.

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The fact that we were seeing Hamilton didn’t really set in until we were sitting in the theater and seeing the set.  I was really anxious to see whether the live performances would invoke the same emotional responses that I got from listening to the album (and I’ll freely admit that I cried the first time I heard Dear Theodosia and still get emotional when I hear Yorktown). I was also curious just how much my internal rhythm would be thrown off with the traveling cast, after being conditioned with the rhythm of the original cast performing the musical in a recording studio.

IMG_1979

It’s important to note that the Soundtrack is basically the entire musical. You can count on 1 hand the lines of dialog that aren’t on the recording (minus a song that was intentionally left off as an Easter Egg for those who attend the show – but trust me, that song doesn’t take away from the musical experience.

I’m happy to say that the performance was everything I had hoped for. It delivered every bit the passion, enthusiasm, and character that was present in the recordings.  The visual elements, however, added a whole other perspective that couldn’t be conveyed in the over 200 times I’ve listened to the soundtrack.  There are some amazing comedic elements that are portrayed through body language and choreography.  The other thing that took me by surprise was the transitions between songs, which helped give a sense of just how much time and emotion carried over to the events in the next song.  For example, the Cabinet battles seemed to come out of nowhere and really drove home the fact that Hamilton and Jefferson were constantly at odds with each other. Also, the way Say No To This drove straight into The Room Where It Happens clearly depicted the tension Hamilton was feeling as the pressure was building.

Before the show, Bethany and I set an over/under on the number of times we’d cry during the show. I set my number to at least 4 times and blew that out of the water with getting teary-eyed at virtually every other song. The performances that were emotional for me included:

  • My Shot (caught me by surprise, probably tears of joy)
  • Satisfied
  • Wait For It
  • That Would Be Enough
  • History Has Its Eyes on You
  • Yorktown
  • Dear Theodosia (this one pretty much always cues waterworks)
  • Take a Break (depicting just how badly turning down the Schuyler Sisters weighed on Hamilton)
  • One Last Time
  • Stay Alive – Reprise into It’s Quiet Uptown = Bawling like a baby
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

One other thing that caught me off guard was just how many people weren’t really aware of Hamilton, the story, or the soundtrack. Granted, the Denver Center of Performing Arts wanted to reward season ticket holders with first offering of the tickets (which is why we got to go, through the generosity of Bethany’s parents), but the flip side of that were a lot of theatre fans that really knew nothing about Hamilton except for the hype around it.  During intermission, I overheard one guy saying “I didn’t expect to be this much hip-hop”.   I think there were other people there who knew it was culturally significant, but again probably didn’t take away as much as they could.

If you are lucky enough to get to see Hamilton: please, please, please listen to the soundtrack a few times through, especially if you’re not accustomed to rap.  There is so much depth and richness, as well as historical references depicted in the songs, making it easy for it to fly in and out of unaccustomed ears.  There is so much information packed into each song that it makes it very hard to take it in.  In fact, after listening to the soundtrack, check out a great Podcast breaks down all of the backstory and historical references in each song: The Hamilton Podcast on Graphomania

Lastly, if you’re a Hamilton fan and have not had the opportunity to see it live, please don’t fret. I know it’s easy for me to say, but I sincere that while seeing it live offered new insights and enhancements, it wasn’t world-changing in my appreciation of Hamilton. The theatre that’s playing in your mind while listening to the songs does a great job of telling the story.

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February 25, 2018
by Romey
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Preventing another Parkland

I’ve been going back and forth as to whether I wanted to share any thoughts about the Parkland shooting, and what can be done to prevent another horrible tragedy. School shootings and gun control are two subjects that elicit a strong response in many, and 10 days later I’m afraid that people are still being driven largely by emotion – which in itself isn’t bad, but without being tempered by reason, it becomes difficult to reach a practical, measured response.

This gives way to both sides degrading to efforts that while emotionally satisfying, can result in the further rupture between sides. I’m concerned that people are now spending more effort demonizing the other side that we’ve moved away from any impactful debate towards something productive. Rather than examine the details that have been uncovered over the last week and looking for preventative measures, it seems that many have just jumped in to justify the pre-determined conclusion they had prior to the shooting. It may help people feel validated, but I’m not sure if it’s moving the needle towards an immediate effort to prevent the next tragedy. I’m not particularly a fan of the NRA, but I also don’t know how attacking and discrediting the organization directly will advance any immediate, significant action – at least in the short term.

I’m no expert but have tried to maintain an open mind in the information I’ve gathered over the last week. With the details surrounding this tragedy, I’m wondering if the following changes could be the starting point for preventing the next tragedy:

Fix background checks and correlate with all of the reporting avenues.

In this latest tragedy, it seemed that concerns surrounding the shooter were reported multiple times, but without a centralized intelligence processing all of the correlating data, it seems that many of these reports didn’t leave the confines of their own agencies. Only with their individual pieces, no one could put the complete puzzle together. We, as a country, need to establish some kind of centralized repository for all of these reports: from schools to law enforcement agencies, even to mental health professionals, in a dignified and respectful manner that protects both patients and potential victims. However, data collection without action will not be effective, which brings me to my next recommendation.

Establish a specialized Task Force to detect and prevent school shootings.

One unfortunate reality of this tragedy is that local (or even federal) law enforcement, in its current capacity, did not know how to address the tips and reports they received. The sad reality is that despite their best intentions, local institutions aren’t equipped to detect and act on patterns demonstrated by potential shooters. I’m always leery about cataloging symptoms, in fear that we devolve into a Minority Report-style of pre-crime, but there are interventional steps that can be taken to prevent tragedy, similar to who we deal with anti-terrorism after 9/11. This task force would specialize in detecting potential shooters through data inputs, working with school and law enforcement officials in assessing potential shooters, as well as work with schools in identifying securing the buildings. This goes hand-in-hand with the next recommendation…

Institute a nation-wide Gun Violence Restraining Order.

The intent would allow families and friends to the petition the court to restrict the purchase and ownership of guns and ammunition to troubled individuals with a strong potential for violence. We could even extend the task force to also petition for Restraining Orders. An adjudicated process would allow the individual to defend themselves or provide testimony to avoid false accusations and abusing the system. Once a restraining order is granted, such violation would give law enforcement the ability to arrest and detain an individual (solving your pre-crime issue). If successful, this would accomplish everyone’s goal of keeping guns out of the hands of potential shooters.

 

This isn’t the end-all, be-all of regulation and debate, but this may be an effective starting point to enable people to debate both the principles and implementation of the right to bear arms in our country.  Let’s at least start down the path of prevention, giving the officials the tools and ability to better prevent these actions, as we continue the debates of whether further widespread restrictions are required.