Archive for the ‘Ukulele’ Category

Well, that was fun

Monday, 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.

For some reason, I found this to be hilarious

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Denver Ukefest this weekend

Friday, May 15th, 2015

It actually started last night with the Heavy Metal Uke Jam, but I had class last night elsewhere. I’ll be going to the concert tonight, then spending tomorrow attending workshops and the Saturday night concert.

This is the 8th Annual Denver Ukefest, and I’ve been to all of them except #1 and #3.

I have a new ukulele

Monday, August 6th, 2012

For the past month or so, I’ve been taking a class at the Colorado School of Lutherie, in which I built a tenor ukulele. Class was twice a week for three hours a night, and nominally five weeks in duration. It actually lasted for a couple of extra sessions, and I had a final session on Saturday that wasn’t part of the standard class (I learned how to install a pickup in my instrument).

I’m quite pleased with the way it came out. The sound is a rather more “trebley” than I care for, but Edward, who ran the class, tells me that the lower tones will develop as the instrument is played, and getting the sound “bright enough” when the instrument is built is the hard part.

Here’s the picture of the class with our ukes. I’m in the front row on the left side of the photo. Click for a larger view.

Class photo - ukulele class

It’s been an interesting few days

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Not in any really desirable sense of “interesting,” unfortunately.

Sunday morning, I came back to my house to find my front door not working. What had happened is that something had jammed in the latching mechanism, and the latch wouldn’t withdraw enough to allow the door to open when the knob was turned. If it had happened a week before, it wouldn’t have been much of a problem, because the weather was warm enough then that I had most of my windows open to let the breeze through, and all it would have taken was removing a screen and climbing through. However, this past weekend was chill enough that I had all of the windows latched closed.

Marion had a locksmith she’d used before that she recommended highly, so I called them. The dispatcher said he had nobody he could send, but he could set up an appointment for the next day. Not acceptable. He did have another locksmith company I could call, though. Unfortunately, he’d set up his booth at the Mile High Flea Market and was unavailable until about 4:30 or 5:00 pm. Again, not acceptable.

I went to the local Home Depot and Lowe’s to see if they had a locksmith service or someone they knew who worked Sundays (and Mother’s Day in particular). No luck. No “home break-in kits” for sale, either. The lady I spoke with at Home Depot pissed me off, too – after explaining about how my door mechanism had broken, she asked some co-workers about locksmiths by calling out across the store, “Hey, this guy locked himself out! Can we do anything?” Why, yes, having broken door hardware is just the same as pulling a locked door closed without having your keys.

When I got back, Marion called a 24/7 emergency locksmith while I was otherwise occupied. When he got there, he tried the doorknob for a couple of minutes, then drilled out the lock cylinder (which scared me, because he was using a bent drill bit) and tried the doorknob again. When that didn’t work, he put his shoulder to it and broke the door open. The jamb was split completely across through the hole for the latch, and three pieces of it were on the floor (two large and one small). He then took two screws and put the two larger pieces more-or-less back in place and asked me if I wanted him to put a new doorknob in. As if.

I probably shouldn’t have paid, but I did. Way too much. I changed the text on the receipt that said that there were no problems and that I was satisfied with the job, though.

Monday morning, I called and asked for the owner, and complained to him. He gave me a $50 refund (insufficient, but I didn’t want to get into kicking and screaming). I then called the original locksmith Marion recommended. The phone dispatcher said, “You’re kidding!” when I described the situation, then connected me with Mark, one of the owners, who gave exactly the same response. Mark came out and examined my door, then said I didn’t need the jamb replaced. All I needed was a better repair job. I’d have needed a replacement if the split had gone though the deadbolt hole, but the latch isn’t what gives me security on that door. He couldn’t do the work until Wednesday morning, though, so we set up an appointment and I went in late to work.

Then yesterday, I thought I’d go out into the back parking lot and play ukulele during lunch – the Swallow Hill Ukefest is this weekend, and I could do with some more practice. Unfortunately, the C string on my uke had broken. No ukulele for me.

I got back to my office and started to work again, but found a large number of “disk error” alert boxes pop up. Then a program I knew I hadn’t installed started running and claimed that I had tremendous numbers of hard disk errors. I immediately did a hard shutdown of my desktop, and started investigating using my laptop. It turns out that I’d been infected by S.M.A.R.T. HDD, a piece of scamware/ransomware that purports to find disk errors, and offers to fix them if you provide a credit card number and upgrade from the “free version.” It also hides all of your desktop icons, prevents Windows Task Manager from running, and takes up enough system resources to make it difficult to run anything else.

According to Microsoft’s website, this is a new version of a several-year-old program, and they really can’t protect against it. The approved removal method involves booting into safe mode with networking, then running Internet Explorer to download several programs that will take care of removing the infection. That didn’t work for me; I had no access to programs from the Start menu in safe mode – the “run” box was missing and the only program on the menu was the fake disk utility.

I got in touch with our IT services provider and got walked through a recovery process, but that failed. We set up an appointment for him to come in this morning while I was dealing with the locksmith, and he’d clean the infection from my system. I stopped and picked up some ukulele strings on the way home.

The IT guy had just finished when I got to work (by the way, the locksmith did great work on the jamb, and cleaned up a couple of other door-related problems I had – I can whole-heartedly recommend Master Security of Arvada).

Unfortunately, the scamware had also hidden a number of documents, including an entire directory that I need to work with, which I admit would have been hard, if not impossible, for the IT guy to notice. Luckily, the applications needed to clean my system, including an “unhide” utility, were left on the system, so I’m running that in hopes that it’s all I need to get back to work.

Now, I find I can’t get into my Google Plus account. We had a meeting yesterday with a web design person, and I brought my laptop into the meeting so I could show her the statistics on our current site as well as the site itself. Showing the statistics required logging into Google Analytics with my work email address, so now Google Plus wants me to “upgrade” with my work email address, and I don’t seem to have a way to tell it I want to log in with my Gmail account information. Way to go, Google!

I’m hoping that I’m not told that there’s no record of my buying my pass for the Ukefest when I try to pick it up. I’m not sure it will surprise me if it happens, though.

Sunday, when this all started, was May 13th. It’s a day off, but it reminds me of the lament in one of the Pogo strips, which went something like this: “Friday the 13th done come on a Monday. We’s gonna have a whole week of bad luck!”

Year-end link dump

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

In Japan, tradition for New Year’s Day is that it’s a fresh start – houses are cleaned, debts are paid, and so on. I’m not going to be anywhere near a fresh start this New Year’s, but I can at least try to clear out some of the links I’ve been accumulating.

This is not any sort of year-in-review, so don’t expect comprehensive links or dots being connected. This is just some of what I’ve accumulated in the last couple of months.

We’ll start with the Christmas/winter-related links while they’re fresh.

The Portal Christmas Tree is pretty cool. It’s appeared on a number of websites recently. The Portal 2 present wasn’t quite so widely noted. This last Portal-related link shows how Santa gets around quickly.

Instead of the Portal tree, which is one tree in two places, the Obama’s have 37 separate Christmas trees.

I’ve never cared for Star Trek ornaments, but I like this.

If you’re concerned that your stocking won’t hold your stuff, you can build one of these.

Do you tell spooky stories at Christmas? Some people do.

Some people like music to go with (inspired by) those spooky stories.

Some people have entirely too much time to play in the snow. Looks like fun. Back around 1977, I made this kind of fancy snow sculpture with my housemates, but I’ve not done it since then. Most winters, there’s seldom enough snow where I am to make an attempt worthwhile.

Art links:

Street Art Utopia has a wonderful retrospective of street art from the past year.

Variations on a theme. Some drawing are likely to be NSFW.

I like the fourth picture, but they’re all good.

Did Vincent Van Gogh have a vision deficiency?

Music links:

The Whitney Music Box. It’s fun to watch, too. Via.

Play Ukulele Hero.

So you’ve heard a song in a movie, and you want to know what it is.

Math and Science links:

A new technique lets you count the animals living in a body of water by monitoring the DNA in a sample of it.

This is amazing! MIT has a new high-speed camera system that can show the advance of light.

The archives of the Royal Society have been put onto the net for free access.

Nature wants to eat you.

This is cool! Watch the video showing how a new spray can keep your clothes and other things clean. I could use this on my windows and shower doors.

Another success for adult stem cells. To the best of my knowledge, all stem cell successes to date have involved adult stem cells, not fetal stem cells.

Do you believe in anthropogenic global warming enough to kill people? I don’t.

On science, pseudo-science, and heresy as it relates to AGW.

Nine equations true geeks should know (or pretend to know).

Technology and Toys links:

One of the Christmas presents I gave this year was a nice watch. Personally, I wear a cheap Casio watch currently, but I’ve been thinking of getting myself a nicer one. Here is one website I’ve checked out. You can find some nicer watches (definitely out of my price range) here, including this one that is wayout of my price range. It is beautiful, though. There is some attraction in an Android watch, though.

I had a Digi-Comp1 when I was younger. All that I have left is the manual. I may have to play with this emulator some time, but it was a pretty rudimentary computer, so perhaps not. Via Boing Boing.

I came so close to building one of these for a senior project in EE. I wish I had.

I have fond memories of Rogue, but they’re not too specific, because it’s been a long time since I’ve played. I wonder how close this is.

I haven’t tried this game-development system yet, but it looks interesting.

There’s not only an app for that, there’s now a brick-and-mortar app store.

It can’t tell you what changes were made, but there’s a new computer program that can tell you what parts of an image have been changed.

I remember reading this article (the Popular Science one) when it came out. I thought it would be a neat thing, and wanted to try making an aquarium pump. Unfortunately, I was a poor pre-teen at the time, and had no way to obtain the supplies.

This looks cool (and I almost put it in the art category), but I have to wonder about traction.

How cool is the idea of black boxes for archery arrows?

Politics, culture, and the economy:

An infographic about the Federal budget.

If the media were actually conservative, or even impartial or honest, this would be one of a number of major administration scandals.

The claim has been made that Occupy Wall Street is a grassroots uprising just like the Tea Party, but on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Is it? Is it really?

I had to ask some friends not to invite me for dinner if they were also inviting a specific neighbor of theirs to the same dinner; at each get-together where we were both present, he seemed to be challenging me to respond to his provocatively-stated political opinions, and I refused to submit myself to him being obnoxious all evening, and I didn’t want to make a scene. It’s not an unknown problem.

There are a lot of scary charts and graphs around. Here are two of them.

Are white men gods? Fred makes a good case for it.

At the very least, it appears that old Republican white men know what’s going on in the world.

Muslims have killed more than 1000 Christians this year. They don’t limit themselves to Christian targets though, and the numbers add up.

It used to be that medicine had little relation to or dependence upon evolutionary concepts. As that is no longer the case, I weep for the future of medical treatment.

When should you use violence? Don’t skip the comments.

Sometimes, they don’t even make an effort to hide their attitudes.

Food and Drink links:

A cheeseburger requires the capabilities of modern society.

Recipes for Liquers.

Highway closed by 20-ton Marmite spill. Kind of reminds me of the Great Molasses Flood.

I’ve made orange peel candy before, but it’s nice to keep a recipe handy.

I’m planning to try this recipe tomorrow night.

Sometime, I’ll have to try to make Italian Beef.

Most honey isn’t honey (according to the FDA).

Whisky and lasers sounds like a dangerous pairing, but it’s actually useful.

I’ve had a couple of these brews. I used to have some bottles saved from various brews with fun names (I had a bottle of Beer Goggles IPA, and two of the Denver Zoo’s custom labels), but I got rid of them some time ago.

I never really cared for Dippin’ Dots, although it was an interesting thing to try when I was young. It seems that other people feel the same way.

Miscellaneous links:

I propose that world building is the primary distinguishing characteristic of SF and fantasy.” Years ago, I attended a presentation on world building given by John Barnes. It was fascinating – among other things, he talked about Mac applications he’d developed to do forecasting of everything from expected rates of technology introduction to likely political alliances to popular names that could be extrapolated for particular future time periods.

Trade your old gold for a new cat.

Lost/missing culture

An enlightening discourse on Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits.

I’ve seen this guy before, but he wasn’t modeling bras then.

Speaking of modeling, a Swedish fashion chain is under fire for showing their clothing using computer-generated models.

Also, as a model, you should know what terms are in your model release.

Here is one link to a resource for learning languages.

Speaking of languages, they’re being mapped by Twitter.

Like a southern accent is good for a drop in perceived IQ, the same is true of dressing in a certain manner.

I think I’ve posted this before, but I ran across it again recently. An amusing anecdote about an attack cat.

Wisdom from Calvin’s father.

Ernie Pyle remembers Clark Kent.

And Bruce Wayne has a medical examination.

This is interesting – Mayan ruins found in Georgia.

It’s not GlaDos, but it used to be potato powered.

The Royal Navy is retrofitting submarines in preparation to allowing women to serve on them. I’ve written about this before; I think it’s a bad idea.

Be careful what you text. Also, review it to make sure it’s what you intend to send.

It’s a sad thing to note that this is necessary these days.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show actors – where are they now?

I haven’t gotten around to reading this webcomic yet.

Some nice newspaper headlines here.

Watch out for online dating scams.

UPDATE: Fixed a couple of links that weren’t properly closed.

Miscellany 18

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Just some things that have been hanging around.

This is a useful site for learning to play the ukulele. If you want to start from the beginning, here’s the first post. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t have an easy way to access the archives.

Tired of people who don’t know how to spell or which homophone to use? Here’s a potential solution.

Want a guess as to how long you’ll live? This site tells me I can expect about another 27 years.

Can spiraling help you run faster? I don’t have the knees to run for exercise anymore (and I’m still coming back from my broken ankle, besides), but this sounds interesting.

Sometimes, science fiction can be eerily prophetic. A couple more by Heinlein that they could have mentioned are his prediction of the waterbed in Stranger in a Strange Land (which was actually referenced as prior art to invalidate a patent application), and his prediction in the story Waldo that telephone answering machines would be used to screen incoming calls.

I’m not terribly familiar with it yet, but I’m becoming quite taken with the music of Flanders and Swann. It’s certainly more interesting than this concert.

Scientist trading cards. The people behind these also pulled off a neat guerilla art prank.

Oh, wow, man! The colors!

I can’t believe it! (via Theo Spark – the site is possibly NSFW, YMMV)

The rarely-seen arborial moose. Must have been trying to visit Rocky.

And, to finish up, a list of the ten deadliest toys of all time. I’m not sure I agree with all of their choices, particularly with the “of all time” qualifier, but it’s probably a pretty good starting point for the years since about 1950.

Ukelego?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Here’s a ukulele built from Lego bricks. It’s tuned down a fair amount, because it wouldn’t handle the tension of being tuned like other ukes, but still sounds pretty good.

I do have a leg to stand on

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

… but only the one. Here’s why the other can’t be used:

Ankle X-Ray

When I talked to the surgeon (Dr. Shannon) on Monday, he said that my options were two: an operation, during which he’d put a plate and a screw into my ankle, or just having a cast put on it. The possible failure modes were very similar for both treatments, but there were a couple of extra potential problems if I had the operation (such as infection). I was concerned about the cost of the operation, because I have no medical insurance, but his charges were going to be under $600 for the surgery, so I thought it might be affordable. He made an reservation for an operating theater for Wednesday morning in case I made that decision.

Then I talked with the hospital. Their charges, even after a 40% discount because I was paying myself, would be expected to run in the $17K-$22K+ range. I didn’t even bother to find out what the anesthesiologist would charge; there’s no way I can justify that much money.

So, yesterday morning, I got my cast. I wasn’t aware at first why it couldn’t have been put on Wednesday during the time that had been set up for the operation, but they apparently wanted an extra day or two to let my ankle reach its maximum swelling. I took these photos after they took off my splint, just to have a record of the bruising and swelling:

These are the impressive bruises. The break is on the other side of the ankle, but I’ve got tendon and ligament damage on this side.

Inside bruising

This is the side with the broken bone. There’s bruising, but this is probably the best shot for highlighting the swelling.

Outside bruising

This shot shows how far up the shin the bruising extends. I was surprised, myself.

Up the leg bruising

I don’t regret going for a cast instead of the operation. As I noted earlier, the potential outcomes and drawbacks are similar. The operation has a couple of extra potential drawbacks to counterbalance the potentially-but-not-guaranteed-better outcome. Dr. Shannon also noted that one of his mentors feels that ankle surgery is recommended too aggressively these days. His evidence was that people with knee and hip surgery from 30-40 years ago were getting arthritis in those joints and needing new surgeries done, but people with ankle surgeries of similar vintage weren’t getting arthritis nor were they needing ankle fusion operations.

So far, apart from finding out just how much exertion getting around on crutches requires (particularly dealing with stairs – I’ve been sleeping on the couch to avoid them), transport is my biggest problem. Because it’s my right ankle that’s injured, I’m not going to be able to drive a car until it’s completely healed. Bugger.

This morning was the regular third-Saturday-of-the-month ukulele club meeting at Swallow Hill. I’d planned on going, but was unable to. I did go out on my back patio and play ukulele for a while this afternoon, and I also found a fun “Spot the Ukulele” game at Maggie’s Farm. I’ll probably play that several more times until I can get to meetings again.

Two news stories you may have missed …

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

I know I did.

First, the more recent story: there is a restaurant that has a policy I can appreciate. Indeed, a policy I have fantasized about more than once.

Second, we have a record attempt that fell just a little bit short. Better luck next time.