Ok, I get the idea. No garden this year.

May 24th, 2016

My garden area is small, and too shady to really grow good vegetables, anyway. I do try, because I like having a garden. Mostly, what I can grow successfully are herbs, and that’s ok by me. I made a fair amount of a nice oregano pesto with last year’s crop.

This year, however, the weather has been against it. I’ve got a hops plant that I planted last year, which got about 6′ tall by the end of the season. This year, it was about 9″ tall when a late snow hit it in March, breaking the tallest bine. Then, most of the leaves were stripped from it on May 9th, when a hailstorm came through. Small hail, but lots of it. My oregano and sage made it through without trouble, and the strawberries were damaged, but not badly.

Today, we had another hailstorm. One of my neighbors told me that there was 2″ of hail on the ground in places. It was almost all gone by the time I got home from work. The weather report said it was quarter-sized hail, although what was left on the ground when I got home was much smaller. There are no leaves left on the hops plant. At all. My oregano is about half the height it used to be. The sage (with its woody stems) is the same height, but with fewer leaves. The strawberries are no longer visible.

I think I may write off the garden. I’m not sure how far I’d need to go to find a nursery that didn’t have all their outdoor plants blasted by the hail.

Well, that was fun

May 16th, 2016

And I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. The 9th Denver Ukefest was this weekend, and a good time was had by all. I didn’t make it to Thursday night’s Heavy Metal Uke concert and open stage. I’m not familiar with Book ’em Danno, the band that gave the concert Thursday, although I’ve been aware of them for several years. I’ve been told it was a great evening.

I did see Friday night’s concert. The acts that performed were the Milk Blossoms, whose music I didn’t care for. Julia Nunes, who is quite a good performer, came next. The music she performed was all “relationship and break-up” songs, which got old quickly for me. The headline performer Friday was Daniel Ho, who had a bass player and a drummer with him. Their music was incredible. At one point, Daniel moved from ukulele to piano for three songs. During the third one – called “Waimea” – he abandoned the piano partway through to take up a pair of sticks, performing a percussion routine with the drummer to Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

Saturday started at 9:30am with the first workshops. During the day, I attended five workshops. The first a jazz workshop hosted by Paul Hemmings that was focused on Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album, particularly the use of modes rather than chords for specifying the progressions. In it, we worked on learning the song, “So What.”

The second was Daniel Ho’s workshop on various ways to “dress up” his song, “Pineapple Mango,” in order to provide a more interesting performance. He covered strum variations, emulating a bass, chord melody, harmonics, and the “Mozambique rhythm,” which involves playing notes by hammering-on with your left hand while you play percussion on the ukulele with your right hand.

The third workshop was an introduction to inversions by John Nash, concentrating on the chord form sequences for finding major chords up the neck, and how to tie them together.

The fourth was an introduction to clawhammer ukulele by Chris McGarry, which I took because I’ve been having difficulty getting the basic stroke down. I think I now have it down well enough to continue on my own for a while.

The last workshop was titled, “Lyricism and Line: How to Make the Ukulele Sing.” It was run by James Hill, and covered slower strums for “relaxed” playing – that is, you’re not going to want frenetic or Formby-style strumming for a lullaby. He also went over using different chord voicings to help make your playing more melodic.

The Saturday concert started with a couple of songs by the Denver Ukulele Community. I believe there were some people from other groups involved in the performance. I’ve been part of this in previous years, but the New Zealand trip precluded my participation in it this year.

The actual lineup started with Paul Hemmings. He brought his bass player with him, but used a local drummer to fill out his lineup. I thought the drummer was miked too high, but I’m not a sound man. Given the subject of the workshop he ran, I was a little surprised and a little disappointed that his music was almost completely blues, rather than jazz. It was very good music, and he seemed to be enjoying himself tremendously on the stage. His bass player, Gaku Takahashi, performed on a U-Bass, and was an incredible player. He had a number of solos, and got enthusiastic applause after each of them.

The second performer was Del Ray. She was a total hoot. A fantastic player, with witty song introductions and interactions with her bass player and the audience, and an interesting repertoire. She appeared at an earlier Ukefest, but I wasn’t able to attend that year.

James Hill was the headline performer, and it was easy see why. Just to mention a few songs, he played “Duke’s Alley Rag,” which he described as the song he practices most and performs least. I didn’t care for it, personally, but it was an impressive piece. He did some of his “chopsticks beatboxing,” which I also didn’t care for. It was interesting, though, and the sounds he can produce that way are incredible. He performed “Billie Jean,” and mentioned (probably not at that time, but I don’t remember) that he’d been selected to be the next in Jim Beloff’s Ukulele Masters book series, and that his book was going to be called, “Duets for One.” Paul Hemmings and Del Ray’s bass player (whose name I didn’t catch) came out to perform “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” He did percussion with his feet for a few songs, which was impressive, and I wonder how many calories that burns, because his feet were moving quite quickly. He also managed to get some involved rhythms going by using both feet. Towards the end of his performance, he performed “Voodoo Child,” and sounded a lot like Hendrix while doing it (his version on YouTube doesn’t sound quite as impressive as his performance in concert). His finale was “Ode to a Frozen Boot,” which is an impressive performance piece. From clawhammer to jazz to classical to fingerpicking to electric to ludicrously fast bluegrass to who knows what else he knows how to do, he’s probably the most versatile ukulele player I can think of.

The finale for the evening (and the festival) had everyone come out on stage to perform a song together, with anyone in the audience who had a ukulele available performing along with them. This is done every year, and this year’s song was “Mama Tried,” in honor of Merle Haggard.

Yes, there is a reason I’m linking this Dave Barry column

May 7th, 2016

I just went through my second one yesterday. No problems, thank goodness.

In other health news, I’ve received a new CPAP that I’m calling “ET” because it phones home. I used it the night I got it, but the next night was the colonoscopy prep, and I didn’t really get any sleep then, so I had it unplugged. The next day, I received a phone call, a text, and an email saying that I needed to make sure it was turned on so it could upload my usage information.

Next week I’m getting a three-month updated set of blood tests done and scheduling a new sleep study. All of my medical procedures seem to be coming due at once.

Just got back

April 28th, 2016

I’ve been on vacation for three weeks, and just got back yesterday. We were on a G Adventures tour – Highlights of New Zealand. Travel there and back was an absolute nightmare. Our trip there involved two flights – Denver to Los Angeles, then Los Angeles to Auckland. Our flight from Denver was delayed for over an hour prior to takeoff because President Obama was making campaign appearances in Los Angeles, so they put a “ground hold” on that airport, meaning that incoming flights (ours among others) were not allowed to take off.

That caused us to miss our connection to Auckland – there are only two flights per day on that route (both overnight), and we’d had seats on the second one. We ran (almost) from Terminal 7 (United) to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (we got there faster than the shuttle bus would have taken us), but the line for security was several hundred feet long (it snaked several times upstairs, then went the entire length of the terminal downstairs), and the Air New Zealand counter was already closed. Fortunately, we managed to find some ANZ people who were still available and who issued us some paperwork and sent us back to United (back to Terminal 7). United took the position that it wasn’t their fault we missed our flight connection, therefore we weren’t entitled to any compensation. At least they arranged for us to get on the next day’s flight. Some of the other people who missed the same connection didn’t get all the paperwork done by United, so when they showed up at the Air New Zealand counter the next day, they had to go all the way back to Terminal 7 again.

The hotel we ended up in overnight wasn’t bad – the rooms were nice enough, but the hallways had a distinct feel of decrepit sanitarium to them. The hotel restaurant was closed, and there were no restaurants in walking distance – well, there was one across the road and about a block down, sort of, but it involved walking more than a mile and a half to get there, and the only restaurant that delivered said they had a 1-hour-plus delivery time. As it was well past midnight by then, we decided to get some snacks from the vending machine and call it good.

For the return trip, there were three flights – Christchurch to Auckland, Auckland to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Denver. Our original flight out of Christchurch was scheduled for 7pm, but we were bumped to an earlier flight, which then was delayed. It eventually took off just before 7pm. The transpacific flight wasn’t really a problem, but we’d been awake about 15 hours by the time it took off, and only managed a couple of hours sleep each on the 12+ hour flight. We had a two-hour layover in Los Angeles before our flight to Denver, and that would have been barely enough if the last flight hadn’t been delayed. It took us over an hour to get through customs and immigration, and then we had to walk from the Tom Bradley International Terminal to Terminal 7 (United) and go through security screening again. There’s a shuttle bus, but walking beat it again. Apparently, they are planning a way to let you stay within the security-cleared area while moving between terminals, but they don’t have anything like that yet. We got to the security screening, and they sent us back to replace our boarding passes, because United can’t read the barcodes generated by Air New Zealand, or something like that. Then, Marion had an extended and frustrating experience finally going through security. If the last flight hadn’t been delayed, I’m not sure we’d have made it back to Denver last night.

In between, though, it was a very nice trip. New Zealand is a beautiful country. There’s always a bit of “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” flavor to a G Adventures tour, and it seemed a little more evident on this tour. Still, we had a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t mind going back at all. I’ll have more to say (and photos) later.

For some reason, I found this to be hilarious

April 2nd, 2016

So …

March 25th, 2016

We had a significant snowstorm earlier this week. My boss texted early Wednesday morning to let everyone know that she was closing the business for the day. Good thing. According to the traffic overlay on my iPad’s map app, the roads were not moving well most of the day. The city of Denver actually put the chain law into effect, which is something that seldom happens. It usually happens several times a year for the mountains – there’s a stretch of I-70 near work that’s a pull-off area for trucks to put chains on – but I’ve only seen snow heavy enough for Denver to require it a few times in the last 30 years. I-70 was closed all the way to the Kansas border, and I’m sure Kansas shut down some of the highway in their state.

Roads weren’t bad on Thursday – one of my coworkers reported the major road by his apartment was icy, but I only ran into trouble on the on-ramp from the major road near me to the highway. Today was no trouble, but we’re supposed to be getting more snow tonight into tomorrow. Probably go up to Frisco Sunday for some cross-country skiing.

We’ve been developing a new computer board at work – based on a Cortex M-3 processor. We got the first boards back from the assembler on Monday, and have been testing them all week. As is usual when bringing up a new board from scratch, not everything is working, but enough is working that we’re not too unhappy. Unfortunately, one thing that’s not yet working is affecting our ability to test some other parts of the system. Just the way things go, sometimes. Once we’re past this problem, odds are good that everything else will fall into place.

Happy First Day of Spring

March 20th, 2016

Busy weekend

March 6th, 2016

My daughter came by yesterday to go through my LPs and grab what she wanted before I got rid of them all. She disappeared with most of my comedy LPs, some folk, some ballroom dance, and a few just for the cover art. She also left with a few books (two that I gave her, and two that she borrowed), and a couple of Ethernet cables.

Marion and I went cross-country skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center today. First loop was on Crown Point, then after eating a lunch-time snack, we did a loop of the front half of the Frisco Bay trail. They had signs posted along the trails warning that moose had been seen in the area, and to avoid them. We didn’t see any moose, not that I expected to. We did, however, see a snowshoe hare, which is the first wildlife other than birds and squirrels that I’ve seen while skiing at that area. I saw a fox a few years ago while skiing at the Steamboat Nordic Center. Just don’t see much wildlife while skiing.

I’d planned on getting a haircut and doing laundry this weekend, but it just didn’t work out. No big deal, though. The longer hair helped keep my ears warm while skiing, and the laundry can be put off for a few more days – it’s not as though I’m about to run out of clean clothing.

They never did this when I was his age

February 24th, 2016

A 16-year-old Russian boy has won a contest. His prize is a month in a hotel with a porn star. She looks quite nice, but he doesn’t look 16 to me.

I’m reminded of the young man whose mother sent a stripper to wish him a happy birthday while he was in class.

It seemed absolutely crazy

February 16th, 2016

I found this to be an absolutely fascinating article. I am tremendously impressed with Jill Viles. She is a poster child for taking control of your medical care, which is something I should do more of.

It seemed absolutely crazy. The idea that an Iowa housewife, equipped with the cutting-edge medical tool known as Google Images, would make a medical discovery about a pro athlete who sees doctors and athletic trainers as part of her job?

I believe that my sisters were once contacted about a medical study concerning a condition that may run in our family. Jill, in contrast, found an active study about her condition and got them to include her family. She got care for her father that likely extended his life by eighteen years, and did the same for an Olympic athlete. That’s impressive.

Definitely someone more people should know about.