Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

Back to normal

Monday, July 11th, 2016

… or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Marion had family visiting all last week, and I was tapped to help out with driving and hosting duties. We covered a lot of ground, visiting various places from Nederland to Cripple Creek. Good food, but we were on the go from (usually) 8 in the morning until 8 or 9 pm each day. We got them back to the airport Saturday afternoon, and then more-or-less collapsed.

Sunday was Marion’s birthday. We didn’t go anywhere, but I cooked dinner for her. I fixed tagliata, and made a chocolate orange torte for dessert. We had the leftovers for dinner tonight. Good food, if not as good as a few of the meals we had during the past week.

This morning I went back to work, and had a couple of packages on my desk that had arrived last week. One contained some LCD displays I’m planning to play with, and the other contained a Raspberry Pi 3 that I won in a drawing. Fun stuff.

Well, that was fun (not)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Today has not been the best day. It started when I got up – my normal practice is to weight myself and take my pulse and blood pressure right after waking. Today, my sphygmomanometer died. I pumped it up several times, and it displayed the falling pressure and the pulse indication, but it gave me an error each time, instead of the final results.

Driving to work, there’s a major intersection about 1/2 mile from the office, and the cross street is the major one, so I always have to wait for the light. This morning, just as I was braking to join the line of cars at the light, some idiot (I’m using an innocuous description to avoid the profanity that I used when this happened) zoomed past me and jinked into my lane to avoid having to wait behind a gravel truck. I had to brake so hard to avoid hitting him that everything loose in the car went flying. I’m just relieved that I hadn’t stopped to pick up coffee and burritos for the office this morning. When the light turned green, the idiot kept pace with the gravel truck, so that the light turned red before I was through the intersection. He remained ten miles per hour below the speed limit to the next light, calmly sailing through just after it had turned red, thus forcing me to wait for the next cycle.

Nothing much happened at work, apart from a BSOD at the end of the day, just as I was about to save a file I’d been working on.

Driving home, I noticed a heavy brake smell just after I got onto the highway. I didn’t think it was my car, because my on-ramp going home is just after the highway finishes a 7% downgrade that is several miles in length, but I have had some brake trouble recently, so I wasn’t certain. I got off at the next exit, and saw that a semi trailer several vehicles ahead of me had a smoking wheel, so that relieved me. However, just past the next intersection, the pickup in front of me got into the “right turn only” lane to go into the shopping center there. Then, he decided not to, but I had drawn almost even with him. Another flying interior braking event, and I’d avoided him. He got back into the traffic lane, then turned into the second entrance to the shopping center.

Later, and closer to home, I managed to avoid (without any trouble) driving behind a van with precariously-packed back section, and which also had back doors that were open and swinging. I did have a little trouble with a vehicle that decided to cut abruptly from behind it to in front of me, though.

No problems with dinner, but my bad knee has been acting up since then. Blargh.

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.

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

Saturday, 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

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.

So …

Friday, 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.

Busy weekend

Sunday, 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.

Happy New Year

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

I hope your holidays were good.

Mine were very enjoyable. Marion and I came home a few days ago from a holiday trip to New York to visit her friends and relatives. We had a good time there, and I can recommend the food at Osteria Laguna and the Miss Korea BBQ restaurant – we had quite a good lunch there. I was good on the trip – I only gained a pound or so. I did pick up a couple new cookbooks at Kinokuniya, though, and I’m looking forward to trying some of those recipes.

Arriving home was a slightly different matter. We got to the car park, and my car wouldn’t start. Dead battery. Marion didn’t know how to deal with push-starting a car with a standard transmission, so that ended up being a fair amount of effort (on my part) and stress (on hers). Eventually, we got it started and managed to get home.

I took it in to my mechanic yesterday. It was a bad battery, which is not nice, but better than the alternator or some other part of the electrical system. Still, that’s money that I hadn’t anticipated needing to spend. It’s the third battery for the car, so I’m doing a little better than average on battery life.

Been busy recently

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

At work, we’ve been trying to get a new product out. We’ve got the design and layout done, and are in the process of getting prototypes set up. We’re also working on an add-on board for it, and that’s still in the schematics stage. Even though I’m not a hardware engineer, I’ve been heavily involved in reviewing the schematics and suggesting changes. One of the reasons I’m useful at it is because I’m familiar with what we’ve done in the past, so I know what worked and what didn’t in our previous designs, so I have some ideas about what to watch out for.

For various reasons, I had to have my Christmas dinner yesterday. I fixed a rib roast, roasted root vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, and homemade bread. For dessert, I’d made mince pie and chocolate rum balls, and one of the guests brought a steamed chocolate pudding with hard sauce. I had a nice cabernet and some non-alcoholic sparkling cider available.

A good time was had by all. Particularly my daughter, when we passed presents around during the lull between the main meal and dessert. I gave her two presents. The first was a cookbook. I recently bought a copy of the cookbook for myself, and I knew she’d enjoy it. The second, though, had her gasping in excitement – it was my set of Samurai Cat art prints, which I had bought at the 1984 Worldcon from Mark E. Rogers at his booth. They’re in good shape, but I had never framed and hung any of them, so, since she’d been threatening to kill me for them since she was 7, I figured it was time to let her have them.

Tonight, as the second part of her present to me, we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was a good movie, and I enjoyed the sly references to earlier movies that I caught (my daughter caught more, but she’s seen the animated series and I haven’t), but there were a few things that offended me. As they’re spoilers involving physics, engineering, and common sense, I won’t say anything (yet), because it’s just past opening weekend. Maybe later.