Archive for the ‘Fun Stuff’ Category

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.

Just got back

Thursday, 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

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

They never did this when I was his age

Wednesday, 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.

Oh, no, John Ringo!

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

oh no john ringo

I presume he’s hoping for chaos

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

This morning on my commute, I was behind an SUV with personalized plates that read, “Expired.”

I can just see it:

“So, it was a black SUV. Did you see the license?”
“Yes, it was ‘Expired’.”
“When did they expire?”
“Oh, they weren’t expired.”
“But you just said they were expired.”
“No, I said they were ‘Expired’ but they weren’t expired.”
“I … see. (mutter) Unreliable witness. (/mutter)”