Archive for the ‘Fun Stuff’ Category

Serendipity, or, The Troubles That Come With Age

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Marion and I went cross-country skiing in Frisco last Sunday. It was a beautiful day, but the skiing was a hell of a workout. The temperature was in the upper 30s, and it had been snowing all day. Because of the snow and overcast, it was hard to see the tracks in the groomed trails. I had trouble seeing them at times, depending on the light, and Marion found them by following behind me. Because of the snowing and the relatively warm temperature, the snow was “slow.”

Even going down the steepest parts of the Frisco Bay loop, I had very little glide and no carry. On the steepest downslope near the end of the trail, I couldn’t even coast to the bottom, and Marion was able to shuffle down slowly with her skis pointing straight downhill.

It took us roughly two hours to go around the trail once, which is about twice what it normally takes. As I said, a hell of a workout.

The serendipity comes in because I decided Sunday morning that I was going to need a backpack, so that I would have somewhere to put any layers I removed while skiing. It wasn’t a problem Sunday, but I’ve ended up wearing just a t-shirt above the waist more than once while skiing. The backpack I grabbed is one I’ve used for exercising while walking, and had 20 pounds of weights in it. When I removed the weights, I noticed something else in it as well. It was the 18-55mm lens for my Canon camera, which I’ve been looking for for almost a year. That just goes to show how diligent I am about getting my exercise, I suppose.

In any case, I’ve been looking for it for a long time, because I backed a Kickstarter project over a year ago for the Pulse camera controller from Alpine Labs, and I received it last May or so. Since the only lens I could find was the 70-200mm zoom lens that was on the camera, I really didn’t do anything much with the Pulse until this week.

Today, I tried taking a time-lapse sequence of photos. It worked, but stopped early, and I need to determine why (I have a few ideas). However, I did get over 150 RAW photos of the foothills in Golden that I need to figure out how to stitch into a movie. It wasn’t the best weather for anything that looked impressive, but it was good enough for a first try. I’ll be trying more soon.

A holiday I can enjoy

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Today is November 28th. In Japan, it’s unofficially Nice Knee-High Socks Day. This is because the date forms a pun in Japanese. Writing the date as 11/28, or 1-1-2-8, the Japanese for the numbers would be “ichi-ichi-ni-hachi.” Shortening it by dropping the second syllables and adjusting the final sound, you get “ii ni-hai,” or “nice knee-high socks.”

A lot of people post pictures, which I think is nice.

Happy Halloween

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Click pictures for bigger.

halloween-candy

halloween-liberal

Halloween costumes that are puns.

NSFW Witch after the break.
(more…)

Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

What with all the brouhaha concerning clowns in the news recently, I thought I’d dust off a song I wrote a few years ago and post it. I had run across a graphic showing a young boy crying, with the words, “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.” It’s from a Simpsons episode, apparently, but I didn’t know that. I also started off with a blues joke, because it seems that most of the old-time blues songs start with, “I woke up this morning, and <something bad happened>.”

In any case, the following goes to the tune of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Well, I didn’t wake up this morning,
‘Cause I never slept last night.
The clowns were coming to eat me
And you know that just ain’t right.

Chorus:
And I’m getting so tired, baby,
So frightened and tired.
I’m getting so tired, I could cry.

Well, they’ve got those big, red noses,
And they wear those floppy shoes,
And the way they paint their faces, Lord,
It just gives me the blues.

Chorus

I saw that little car coming,
With twelve of them inside,
And when they started to pour out
Well, I tried to run and hide.

Chorus

They had loaded up big with weapons –
Cream pies and squirting flowers.
The fighting was hot and heavy
And the cleanup just took hours.

Chorus

So I’m watching for polka-dot jumpsuits,
Balloon animals, as well.
I want you people to know
These clowns are making my life hell.

Chorus

Saw a Captain Kirk fan this morning

Friday, October 7th, 2016

At least, that’s what the indications are. The vehicle had a Star Trek logo on one side of the rear window, a Tardis police box on the other, and a personalized plate with the name, “Tiberius” on it (missing one vowel so that it would fit in seven letters).

Seems pretty obvious to me.

It’s ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ today

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I missed last Saturday’s ukulele meeting at Swallow Hill, which had ‘Pirate Songs’ as the theme, because I wasn’t quite feeling up to it. I fell asleep so quickly Friday night that I didn’t get my CPAP on, and I woke up Saturday irritable and tired. Meh.

I don’t have much to say that’s new or unique, so I’ll just point to a couple of posts by someone else (caution: likely NSFW).

Star Trek Significant Date

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast episode of Star Trek. I would have posted about it last night, but my evening was otherwise occupied – I had two hours of dance classes, and when I came out, I discovered that my car had a flat tire. I pulled out the spare, removed the lug nuts and jacked up the car, then found out that the tire wouldn’t come off.

I ended up getting home late after having to wait for an AAA service truck. According to the driver, who used a rubber mallet to break the wheel loose, it’s a design flaw of my vehicle that the wheels “rust into place” if they’re undisturbed long enough. I’d plan on keeping a rubber mallet in the car for the remaining wheels, but my mechanic told me this morning that I need new tires before the winter snows, so those wheels will come off next week, anyway.

I guess I should have done this post during lunch yesterday in order to have it posted on time. Ah, well.

So, as I mentioned, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first time Star Trek was broadcast. Many people don’t remember how much trouble there was getting the episodes produced and keeping it on the air. NBC didn’t really know what to do with it, and nobody was confident that the show would be a success. Gene Roddenberry even wrote lyrics (that were never used) to the Star Trek theme music, just so that he’d get half of any royalties. When Alexander Courage, the composer, confronted him about this, which reduced his royalty payments by half, Roddenberry told him, “I have to get money somewhere. I’m sure not going to make it on the profits from Star Trek.” So much for foresight.

As for NBC’s support of the series, I remember an anecdote from one of the books about the early days of the series that highlighted the troubles they had with the props department – for one scene on an alien planet, Roddenberry asked the props department for an alien plant. Props sent up a potted plant of the sort you would find in an office. Roddenberry sent it back, and told them he wanted an alien plant. They sent up another normal potted plant. The cycle repeated another time or two, at which point Roddenberry uprooted the plant, turned it upside down, shoved it back into the pot, and told them, “That’s an alien plant!”

The show also had trouble finding an audience – NBC cancelled it after the second season, and it was saved through a massive letter-writing campaign instigated by the Star Trek fan clubs. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to save it that way the second time NBC cancelled the series, so the “five year mission” only made it for three seasons.

I never got to see all of the original series until it was in syndication, which is when it actually became really popular. CBS had the series, The Wild, Wild West, on opposite Star Trek, and it was the viewing choice of one of my brothers. As we only had one television for the entire family (things were different back then), we’d alternate which show we watched based on who wanted to watch which show. He was better than I was at persuading our sisters to support his choice.

There may still be an episode or two from the original series that I’ve not seen – I think The Tholian Web is probably one of them.

Not unexpected

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

I’ve taken vocabulary tests before, and seen similar results to this one:

Vocabsize

Found at Feral Irishman.

Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I celebrated with my daughter yesterday – she took me out to dinner and then to watch roller derby. It was a good time – I hadn’t seen roller derby in person before, and hadn’t seen it at all since it was on late-night television back in the 1970s. The program is here, but I don’t know how long it’s going to be available – it looks like the sort of link that gets reused.

The original plan had been for us to spend a day at the Denver Comic-Con, but we decided that wasn’t going to work for us, thus the replacement plans. There was a lot going on in Denver and reasonably nearby areas this weekend – Denver PrideFest, the Winter Park Chocolate Festival, and a lot more. I heard a radio interview related to PrideFest that disturbed me a few days ago; I hope I misheard what they were saying. What I think I heard was a comment that they had increased the security so that all 350,000 attendees would be safe. I hope I misheard, because that’s equivalent to half the total population of Denver, and Comic-Con had credible estimates of over 100,000 attendees for this weekend.

Today, Marion and I went up into the mountains to visit some friends of hers who have a vacation cabin off the Peak-to-Peak highway. It was a good day – we had a nice walk in the forest, watched hummingbirds and other avian wildlife, and saw a few flowers (columbines weren’t blooming yet except in a couple of sheltered locations).

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.