Thoughts you don’t want to think.

While glancing through the fridge at work and noticing an expiration date:

“Wow. This yogurt has three years seniority on me.”


Back in PA, probably one of the finest managers I’ve had the chance to work with sent out the email to the company about the startup offering a 401(k) for it’s employees.

The meeting invite was entitled “catfood.” And the sentence that was in the body was “Unless you want to eat it in your ‘golden’ years, attend this meeting.”

It was probably one of the best attending meetings I’ve been to. A majority of retirees in the US today live below poverty. And right now a majority of the US has a negative savings rate. My grandparents and parents had social security and pensions to look forward to. No one offers pensions anymore and I’m fairly sure that I will never see a real dime back out of social security.

So my job out here had it’s 401(k) enrollment meeting and I’m back in it. I did my budget and I should be able to sock away a good bit. The nice benefit is that the way the tax system is tier-based your 401(k) money comes out of the most heavily taxed area. So something more than 30 cents of every dollar you toss into savings would have been lost to taxes. You’ll pay taxes on it later, sure, but at a lower tier when retired. It’s a net of like 20% free money, not counting the interest it’ll earn over time.

When I threw myself into Diamond Visuals I burned my old 401(k) so I could eat. Hopefully now I can repair that. I do like cats, but I don’t want to have to like the cat food.

More moosik!

When I left college there was about a year when I didn’t play any music. And then, one day, I realized I hadn’t played music in a year.

And it bothered me. Creative things are fun and they help you in so many ways. It keeps your mind sharp, it gives you something to do, it’s a great stress relief and it’s just damned enjoyable.

If you’ve played a music instrument in the past and are rusty, or regret giving it up, I can’t stress enough that there are community bands of all levels of quality that need folks just like you to help them out. I’ve moved many places and have always found a place to play and have fun. Music’s cool. It’s easier to pick back up than you think.

I got to thinking about the community groups I’ve played with and for some reason had the urge to list them. Whee!

Pinebluff Community Band – Pinebluff, NC
Brunswick County Community Band – Southport, NC
Harrisonburg Community Band – Harrisonburg, VA
Stonewall Jackson Brigade Band – Staunton, VA
Into the Woods (Community play) – Staunton, VA
Arlington Community Band – Arlington, VA
??? Glebe Road Band – Nothern Virginia
New Hots Jazz Orchestra – Herndon, VA
Baltimore Ravens Marching Band – Baltimore, MD
Bucks County Community Band – Doylestown, PA
Bucks Country Symphony Orchestra – Doylestown, PA
Ohlone Wind Orchestra – Freemont, PA
Ohlone Community Band – Freemont, PA

Instrument repair…

Probably the most annoying thing about playing a wind instrument is getting one repaired.

Most of the music-instrument business is geared for schools. And most of the instruments sold are geared at that beginning to intermediate level.

To that end, most music shops that do repair do so mostly for that level of quality. Which is a nice way to say that trained monkeys could do a better job.

Most professional musicians tend to become an expert on their own instrument for adjustments. Many learn minor repairs, and some outright end-up overhauling their own horn.

The more technically adept professional players end up servicing their friends instruments and so on and so on. To the point that getting a very good professional-quality overhaul of an instrument is almost exclusively a word-of-mouth business for anything about middling ground.

An artisan craft with almost zero regulation is a rare thing anymore. And like any artisan trade the waiting times for work can be up there.

Having moved in the last year, I’m only now tapping into that market of word-of-mouth knowledge. I had several good referrals pointing to the same guy that happens to be in the group I play in. He’s not a professional player but he lines up with all the traits one would expect in an expert repairman. He has a mechanical engineering background, is generally well-to-do, and has that clean, solid nature you see in such folks.

I recently picked up a used contra-alto online. I was familiar with the model and make, and knew that it was doubtlessly going to be a fixer-upper. When it arrived it was a bit more of a fixer-upper than I would have liked but was still a more than fair deal. (I paid less than 1/3rd the value of the horn new)

I chatted with repair-dude at our first rehearsal and he agreed to take it on. His work queue was full for the moment (they always are) but he was not only quite familiar with this oddball horn (leblanc metallic curricular-wrap contra-alto) but interested in the project in general. Early discussions of cost estimates were more than acceptable and we kicked around the idea of a quick bring-it-up-to-C+ condition job. His schedule would allow him to complete that with an estimate of the end of November for completion.

He called today with the good and bad news. He had a look at some of the more interesting aspects of damage on the horn and everything looks repairable. There’s just a lot of neglect and maintenance that needs to be made up for. The trouble is that the pads condition, coupled with the design of the horn, mean it needs a full overhaul back to grade A. Essentially, all the keys come off, get straightened, padded, put back on the horn and re-seated. (I had worried a bit about this, since while the horn is quite durable, it gets that durability from things like fully machined seating for the pads. It reduces the ability to “adjust” just as it reduces the tendency to “damage.” Essentially, heavy-duty build means heavy-duty repairs.)

That shuffles me in the work order. There are other simple jobs with deadlines in queue. And I was only able to be put where I was on schedule for what was thought to be a smaller job. I’m more than glad to pay for decent work, and to wait for it. The bad news is I’ll probably be seeing the horn sometime after Christmas now. If parts are hard to find, it might be sometime in January.

Personally, I wonder what Geemo would think of this horn. It is mechanical geekery. The complexity of keys is hardly matched anywhere else in standard musical instruments. The design is quite a marvel and a surprisingly agile instrument to play when you consider almost every key is activating one or more levers to close the right pads.

It’s also fascinated my geekish side that music instrument repair is this odd blend of modern and old-fashioned techniques. One one hand you might be using computer controlled machining tools or modern epoxies. On the other hand you find yourself using beeswax, silk-thread, cane, leather and french cement.

Ah well. Here’s to January and having a wonderful horn. Worse-case cost of repairs figured in I think I will have it at about half-price. Yay ebay!

Nom nom nom.

Today, for lunch, we found a nifty restaurant.

Next to Johnny Rockets there is a place that specializes in about 20 kinds of kabobs over various offerings of starches and salads. They range from rather traditional fare to cool stuff like baby-back spare-rib and corn on the cob on a kabob. The prices are good as is the iced tea. I think I’ll be plunking some cash down there now and then.

Licorice Stick

I still need to find a good music icon. hrmm.

So on the music front I met up with the Ohlone group Monday. They’re trying their usual ambitious book of tunes and of course they read it like it’s nothing.

The CDs are back from the final concert last year. Tony says we did an exceptional job with a few tunes including one that called for band members to sing in harmony. I’m very curious how that came out. If it sounds good, I’ll share here.

Generally for Ohlone I play bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. The general direction is to play the contra when a true part is called for, since we have a nice person already playing bass clarinet. And Tony likes a rich low-reed sound, being a tuba player.

My “new” soprano clarinet has not seen much usage. It saw some minor service when I covered for a missing orchestra clarinet back in PA, but not any other usage. Tony sent out a message that he recently took over conducting another group that meets Wednesdays and they needed clarinets.

So, like Beethoven, I “cast my lot in the name of the lord” and headed over. It’s a smaller group that isn’t as sharp. Sort of a middle college ensemble or a very good high school. There’s probably 30 or 40 players total. But there is a serious lot of potential. I could tell that Tony had called in some decent folks and had fleshed out some areas that needed help. Many of the old time players seem very surprised, enjoyed themselves greatly, and came by to thank me and other new folks for coming.

It was an absolute blast to try the Bb again. The back-pressure from the smaller reed takes getting used to and I end up overbreathing at first, but by the end I was sight reading decently and having fun. As usual, I miss keys a bit too much when sight reading, but recovered quickly. I’m noticing, the longer I play that certain keys (as in tone-centers) “feel” a certain way under the hands and even though I “miss” reading the accidental I will actually finger the right note of habit. Perhaps that’s step one to true improv ease.

A section of extended fast upbeats in a version of West Side Story kicked my butt a little. And sight reading a march in it’s usual micro-print with 2 parts on a sheet was it’s usual terror. But all in all I give myself a B+ for the evenings work.

I think this group might be a lot of fun, and more importantly, work and improve some artistic skills that have long been atrophying.

4.23 years later.

Box is being flakey… hey, maybe it’s been up a while.

10:02pm up 1546 day(s), 6:18, 2 users, load average: 0.02, 0.02, 0.02

Perhaps a reboot is in order….




So tonight the ritual begins again.

I trek off to the Ohlone Community College campus to blow the dust off the creative skills and work on a bit of music.

I made the choice in college to put down the art and go after the tech. At times like this I often wonder if I did the right thing in that.

Anyway it’s a good near-professional group and it sounds like I might geek a peek at another performance opportunity on Wednesday. We’ll see how that goes.

Hrmmm. I need to get that one horn repaired already. This should be fun.

Another year older. Whee!

Thanks to all the kind folks who wished me well here, on the forums, on the muck, on the phone and in all the other ways that made me smile.

Folks were kinda worn and ragged still from burning man leading into a workweek here at the house, but there was still a nice, quiet gathering on Saturday of folks hanging out and generally having fun.

We watched Ken hack his way through Bioshock, which has a fun puzzle-way of telling its story while set in a fabulously built world and time. I suppose I’m in the minority to be one of the folks out there who has the various music tracks they’ve decided to use in my Mp3 collection. (Bei Mir Bis du Schen by the Andrew Sisters for instance)

Its a whole side discussion, but I really like seeing creative work tapping back into the styles from the 30’s through the 60’s. There’s a whole lot of art-deco and pop styles that just evaporated on their own. To have them revived in an almost zombiesque feel with weird overtones of retro-tech produces a wonderful effect.

smackjackal brought by a fabulous multi-year-old blueberry honey mead. It’s a rich dark amber with a round sweet taste and the quiet full punch you’d expect from an old fashioned brewed-to-completion mead. A good mead sits in an odd world half-way between wine and hard liquor. It’s an interesting taste if you are not used to it and because of the sweetness, it’s often accessible to beer, wine and other light drinkers. I suddenly have an urge to go back out and make another batch myself. Maybe just a few single-gallon batches. We do have that local bee keeper…

Tommicat from down in Trinidad sent me a wonderful set of steel drum CDs. I can’t wait to get them on the iPod. It’s an cool sound and very unique.

susandeer did a fun little pic of me and her and snuck it up on the macro forums. Between that and arranging everything, she made the weekend so wonderful.

Here’s hoping the next year goes as good as the last one has. There were some rough corners but so much of my life is finally falling into place so nicely. Some peace and quiet would be a wonderful change.

Hrmm… think a wedding would be peaceful?