Shiny, Shiny Pedals

Tuesday April 30, 2019 at 10:36pm guitar, gear, music Comments (0) »
Shiny, Shiny Pedals Image

A couple of weeks ago I broke down and ordered some guitar pedals.  The idea was to create a selection of pedals I could use both with my amp and running directly into a mixer for playing at our church and/or for recording (been doing some writing again lately).

I haven't spent extensive time fiddling with each one on its own, but I have been playing a lot with them as a unit.  What follows are my initial thoughts and the reasons I chose the ones I did.  My default choices were going to be Boss pedals, because they're a good industry standard, and they make solid stuff.  I stuck to that default sometimes; other times, I didn't.


Going in order of my effects chain, the first pedal is overdrive - specifically, the Boss OD-3.

I suppose the main question to answer is "why the OD-3 over the SD-1, which is about half the price?".  I did debate this quite a bit, but after watching several comparison videos on youtube and reading reviews, it seemed that the OD-3 was reputed to be a bit clearer, warmer, and less harsh - and I wanted "overdrive", not "super overdrive".  There's also a little of "you tend to get what you pay for" in my thinking. 

I don't have any personal experience with the SD-1, but the OD-3 sounds great.  It gives a nice, warm, blues or classic-rock style overdrive crunch to the signal on its own, and if I run it into my distortion pedal or drive channel on my amp, I get a really nice, jagged, high-gain metallic distortion.  It's just what I wanted from overdrive.


This was the pedal that I agonized over the most.  There are a lot of different distortion sounds, and they all have different characters.  My original plan was to go with the good ol' DS-1.  It's a well respected pedal, and it's cheap - and I still might pick that one up - but I really wanted something versatile.

In a couple of distortion pedal lists and videos, I found the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal - and I really liked the sound of it.  This one has two different distortion circuits, the sounds of which you can use seperately, blend together, or even run one into the other (I do think it would have been cool if they would have made the blend/series switch a footswitch).  It's not a super-high-gain pedal (their Full Moon Distorition is more aimed that way), but you can get a pretty wide range of drive from using only channel A with just a little gain, to a pretty heavy sound running channel A into B with both gains cranked.  Add my Overdrive onto the front end, and you can get some pretty wicked gain (albiet a bit noisily) as mentioned above.  The Fender tone also does a bit to mitigate the midrange exaggeration of my SG+amp combo (which I've mentioned before).

The Fender pedals are solidly built, look great, and I have to admit, I loved the name of this one.  "Pugilist" as the name of a drive pedal is pretty awesome.


Next up is the compressor.  Once agan, I initially figured on picking up the Boss CS-3, but read several articles sayng it was a bit noisy.  I know there is some misconception with compressors and noise, but I saw this concern often enough that it affected my choice.  Since I'd already gone with one Fender pedal, I decided to take a look at their compressor, The Bends.

This was another pedal with a good look and a cool name, but that wasn't going to sell me on its own.  The reviews on this compressor were very positive though, and a couple even commented that this particular compressor was quiet and subtle.  Compression is one of those effects where, if you're doing it right, you don't really notice it - so this sounded good to me.

The controls on The Bends are a little different from those on the CS-3 and more "standard" compressors, but ultimately they do the same thing and give you a fair amount of control (moreso than the much-loved  MXR Dyna Comp, which has one knob for "compression").  Also, I like the feature where the jewel LED on top of it actually changes color to show when/how the compressor is affecting the signal.  I tend to leave this on all the time, but its effects are most noticeable when playing clean - tightening up the dynamics and giving a little boost to sustain.


So then there's the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble.  This pedal is different from the others in that I've had it for about 20 years.  It's probably not one I'd pick out these days, but I got a lot of use out of it in the past - and I have it, so I threw it in.  It performs its chorus functon well, but it's not an effect I use super often - and when I do, it's usually fairly subtle.  I think these days, if I was going to pick up a modulation pedal, I'd probably look at a flanger or phase shifter.  Like many modulation pedals, it will take you all the way from "barely noticeable" up through "unusably bizarre".

The 'Verb

The biggest reason I wanted a reverb pedal was for amp-less playing.  My amp has a decent spring reverb built in, and I'm not super picky about my reverb sound - I just know I don't like the sound of an electric guitar without a good dose of it. 

For whatever reason, reverb pedals tend to be some of the more expensive effects.  I went ahead with the Boss RV-6 on this one, as it was well-liked and seemed to have a decent selection of reverb types/effects.  I also liked the fact that it has a +delay mode to play around with without buying a dedicated delay pedal.  Whle I may not be picky, I have enjoyed playing with what this pedal can do - and it's reverb is quite a bit juicier than what's in my amp - so it's usually always on.

It sounds good.  Like I said, I'm not super picky on reverb in particular.


Last in the chain is the MXR 10-band EQ pedal, which I've talked a little about before - it's good for guitar and bass, and it has +/- sliders for volume and gain.  It does a good job of taming my amp in a couple of ways, and it should give me more control over my tone for direct inputs.


So that's about it.  I'm pretty happy with this setup.  Nothing super fancy, but it gives me a solid sound and some versatility.  If I get good mileage out of this stuff I might eventually pick up other toys - perhaps wah, volume, phaser, delay, some more drive pedals - but most of that stuff is all secondary at best.



Jamming Again

Thursday April 11, 2019 at 12:17pm music, guitar, drums Comments (0) »
Jamming Again Image

So a month or two ago someone at our church was talking about needing more musicians.  This actually surprised me a bit, as I know we have a lot of talented people.  Talking to our worship minister, turns out they have a lot of people that can play, but he's only got a few for any given instrument.  By the time you add in scheduling conflicts, he's apparently had some trouble filling all the roles every week.  Playing music is fun, and I like to help out, so I told him I could fill in on guitar (lead/rhythm), bass, or drums as necessary.

And I thought, yeah, I miss playing.

Getting the Axe

After that conversation, it occurred to me that it had been some time since I'd even played my SG.  Sadly, it and my amp had been in the basement for a  year or two - mostly because there isn't an "out of the way" place for them to live.  Playing again sounded like fun, so I brought it in and set it up in a corner of the living room.  It's not "out of the way", but the biggest problems are keeping the 3yo away from the knobs, and competing with the TV for audio time.

Anyway, the first thing was to change the strings and clean up the fretboard.  The second things was a bit less expected: re-solder the input jacks on my amp.  They'd been finicky for some time, but apparently they finally snapped - quite literally.  The old solder had given out from years of stress and the jacks had simply popped off the circuit board.  Luckily, it was about the easiest possible thing to solder, and thus within my meager capabilities.

Since then, I've been playing quite a bit - trying to squeeze in an hour or so most days.  I've been working a lot on my fingering, alternate picking, and generally expanding my repertoire of techniques.  I've been going through spotify playlists picking out riffs that sound like fun, and then learning how to play them.  I haven't tried anythng objectively difficult, but I'm pretty pleased with how I've been able to take something truly challenging for me that I've never attempted before and then be able to play it fairly proficiently after just a little practice.  I think I've reached a point now where I'm actually a little better than I was back in college when I was playing a lot more.

Pedal Hard

So I play through an old Peavey Special 212 Transtube amp I got in the late 90's when my highschool band outgrew my little Fender practice amp.  When I got it, I was playing a fender Duo-Sonic my parents got me after I'd been playing for a while (still one of my most memorable Christmas presents).  It's still a great amp, but Peavey's favoring of the midrange combined with the darker tone of my SG's humbuckers means that, while you get really fat lead sounds from it, you can't get a rhythm tone that isn't 5-year-old-puddle-jumper-level muddy.  After a couple weeks playing on it, I decided I needed to tweak that - and I ordered MXR's 10-band eq pedal.

I (obsessively) looked at a number of eq pedals before landing on this one.  The big reasons I decided on this one were that it offers an eq range that's useful for guitar and bass, and that it has a 'gain' slider as well as a simple 'volume'.  I figured that bumping the gain would be good for my passive instruments when doing direct-inputs, and I've found that pulling the gain all the way down (when running it post-preamp) quiets the hiss of my amp and enables me to turn the volume and post-gains on my amp up further than "1" (the other thing about my amp is that it's 200 watts - which is great if you're on an outdoor stage, and not-so-great if you're in your small house with sleeping children).  I've been pretty happy with it so far.

I'm now looking to expand my pedal selection a bit more - if only so that if I end up playing at my church, I don't have to lug my amp (the other other thing about this amp is that it is unnecessarily heavy).  Think I'm going to pick up a distortion pedal, a compressor, and a reverb to start.  After (also obsessively) looking at a lot of the options, I've got my eye on some Boss models.  They seem to be a solid mix of quality + value, they're well-reviewed, and I know Boss makes good stuff.

Drummed Up

I was never really "a drummer" - Justin always took care of that.  But I have always loved to play drums.  I think it's the energy in feeling the music that comes with it.  When my brother started playing, I developed a habit of playing his drums pretty often, teaching myself the basics and developing that particular kind of coordination.  Actually, I think it made me a better musician overall.

Since then, I've played drums in a few ad-hoc music groups - usually praise bands at camps/churches/whatever.  Basically, wherever someone was just needed.  I don't know that I would pass too many auditions, but I can keep a beat and I play well enough on simple stuff to get by.  I'm the percussive equivalent of that guitar player who only plays straight rhythms with with open fingerings - I'll get it done, but it's usually nothing special.

That's not to say I'm satisfied with my meager skill level.  I'd love to practice more, but I don't have a kit of my own, so I'm kind of stuck here for now.

Jamming Again

So last week I was asked to play drums for service this sunday.  We had a rehearsal last night, which went fairly well.  I've been deemed passable - which I consider a success if only because the guy playing percussion is a good drummer, and he said he didn't hear any big issues with my playing.  Still, the once-through rehersal was not enough for someone like me who likes to be over-prepared.  I've been told we'll go through everything "for real" on sunday morning.  Meanwhile, I'm scrambling to make recognizable notes on what I was doing that worked vs. what didn't.  As the new guy, it's maybe 1/4 the rehearsal time I'd like, but it's been a ton of fun.  

Until yesterday, I actually hadn't played drums in at least a few years.  Just haven't had the opportunity.  Knowing this, I made arrangements to get to the church a couple of hours early to warm up, break off some rust, and generally have a blast rocking out.  I played for about 2 hours straight, soaked myself pretty good with sweat, and made my shoulders sore.  If I end up doing this regularly, I think I'm going to need to get a kit.  Or make arrangements to be at the church...often. 

Yesterday was the first time since playing my brother's that I got to sit down, undisturbed, and really get comfortable with a kit.  I have to say, that by itself was awesome.  The difference between then and now, however, is that this kit is electronic.


Like a lot of actual drummers, I prefer the feel of an acoustic kit.  Unlike others, I do like the tighter sound of the electronic kits (maybe I just haven't played a really good acoustic), and the fact that I can, in a church, hit drums hard and not have to worry about being uncontrollably loud is fantastic.  The "gentler" I have to play, the worse I am - or, at least, the less I can pull off.

The church's electronic kit is pretty decent.  As you can see from the photo, it's a Roland kit, and it uses the TD9 module which is solid enough.  I actually read the owners manual ahead of time so I was able to program the sounds I wanted into my own kit on the thing (piccolo snare is a must).  The drum pads have all-mesh heads, and the response feels good.  The cymbals are decent to play on, if nothing particularly amazing.  The hats are really my only complaint.  They're not the worst I've played on, but like most of them, the trigger is "lazy" in that letting up on the foot controller after hitting the pad doesn't change the sound.  This is my continual pet peeve on electronic hats.  I do know that Roland makes a hat trigger system that mounts on an actual hi-hat stand that doesn't have this annoying behavior - I've just only got to play on one for like 10 minutes at a Guitar Center.  


All this has brought my songwriting back onto the radar.  Other than recording a dozen or so chord progressions as voice notes on my phone, I haven't done much with it yet - but if the musical momentum continues, I'm hoping to be able to channel it there.




Lately, Again

Friday December 11, 2015 at 12:46pm bunguin, family, gaming, music Comments (0) »
 Micah ~ 1 month old
Micah ~ 1 month old

Bunguin II

So, I've been busy with nothing lately.  Well, not "nothing", just nothing exceptionally interesting to write about.  Little Blue is now approaching 2 months old, and gaining weight nicely.  He (thankfully) doesn't have Hannah's issue with eating.  Like Hannah, however, he sleeps pretty well at night.

Minis & Mechs

I've been continuing to paint my Battletech miniatures.  I've gotten a bit better at it, and I'm almost done with the ones in the original set.  I'm planning to pick up a couple of the Alpha Strike lance packs to get a few models the intro set doesn't come with.  And Catalyst told me over Twitter that they just might have some plans to bring some of the reseen 'mechs out in plastic form - I'll definitely be getting a few of those if and when that happens, too.  I've actually got to play the wargame a few times, and that's been fun.  I'm still really hoping to run a mercenaries campaign in the future.

Current and (Far) Future

I'm trying to gently nudge our World of Darkness campaign toward a conclusion, and getting ready to start a Numenera campaign.  I think the campaign I'm planning to run will in some ways might run smoother for this group.  Also, Crackle Nights are, in some ways, game nights.  Might need to try to move this back to the weekend.


I've actually been trying to do a little songwriting lately.  My list of hooks and inspiration notes is growing.  I've got a solid set of ideas.  I'm pushing the boulder closer to the edge.  At some point, I'll be ready to push it over and we'll get this rolling.


I Always Get Into Stuff...

Monday June 22, 2015 at 1:17pm games, music Comments (1) »
pirates collectible strategy game well, you would have hit me, but you fired that broadside in 2007
well, you would have hit me, but you fired that broadside in 2007

...just as it's finishing being cool.  Or maybe that never was "cool".  Or maybe it's still cool to some people?  Whatever.

I have noticed a strange trend with interests of mine: I tend to "discover" things that came out years ago.  For example, the Tripod song I reference in the title was on a record that came out in 2006.  I think I happened upon it about a year ago.  There's something ironic there.  Tony & I just got into geocaching in 2013 - about 11 years after its inception.  I recently bought a couple of disc golf frisbees.  I got into D&D in 2000.  Let's face it, I'm not really on the "cutting edge" of much.

I recently bought a few Moxy Fruvous CDs online, because very little of it is available on any streaming/download service in the states.  They broke up in 2000, and most of their best stuff was from the early/mid 90s.  I discovered most of their stuff about a year ago.  I also just now discovered that one of the members of this defunct group has since joined Great Big Sea, a group I've mentioned before and techincally still exists, but hasn't produced much this decade.

Tony, Adam, Tim and I have recently played a couple of games of Pirates, a collectible strategy game that went out of print in 2008.  I hadn't played it until this year when I was looking for something that might interest a nine-year-old.  This game is pretty sweet - and I *love* the little ships - but it can drag a little here and there.  We've been discussing ways we might alter the game or rules to be a bit more fast paced.  

I played the much newer "X-Wing" miniatures game last night with Rucht & Patrick.  That game has some great mechanics, moves nicely, and is quite a bit of fun - probably the best miniatures game I've played IMO.  Given my timetable, I'll probably start buying stuff for it in about 10 years.


As The Year Ends

Tuesday December 30, 2014 at 8:27pm family, holidays, geocaching, friends, gaming, music Comments (2) »
Hannah Out Caching Hannah, waiting for me to re-hide a nearby cache.
Hannah, waiting for me to re-hide a nearby cache.


Had a great trip to AR last week, though I still haven't recovered.  Was good to see Sheri's folks over the holiday.

Got to go caching a couple of times while out that way; that was pretty awesome, too.  I've now been all over the parks around Bull Shoals, AR.  Was cold and somewhat wet, but I was 11 for 11.  Hannah and I went on a short trip in Branson, MO, too.

Didn't play *quite* as much minecraft over the break this time around.

Sheri got me the Numenera core book for Christmas, and I've been reading through it.  I think it might be the system/setting where I finally actually do something with my ideas for a Myst-like game.  Got some other cool stuff, too - some old movies I wanted, a penguin hat and 7 Wonders to name a few.

Went up to IN over Thanksgiving (just realized I haven't posted anything since then), and that was a good time, too.  Got to see family, and dad & I had a great time out caching again this year.

Now You're Older Still

So I guess I'm 35 now.  Had a birthday back in there somewhere (probably on the 18th - that's when it usually is).  Adam gave me a pretty sweet geocaching shirt, and Sheri got me a walking stick, a headband/ear-cover and some other caching stuff.  Hannah gave me a new set of dice.  Also, "birthday crackles" is a great tradition.

At The Table

Our D&D game continues to go strong, though I've been working on at least 3 other games here and there as well.  Steve - our remote player - had to drop out due to work-related busyness, unfortunately.  I like how I'm running this game in particular, though the layers of causality get a bit dizzying at times.  That's not a bad thing, though.

Talk of RuchtCon V has begun as well.  I decided a while back I was going to run a game of Retrograde (FATE Core) this year.

A Tune In My Head

I'm hoping to do something with music in the coming year.  I've been kicking around some ideas for a while now, but I haven't yet made time to really flesh any of them out.  That, and my "space" in the office is say the least.


Some Auld Tunes

Monday November 26, 2012 at 2:38pm music Comments (0) »
Some Auld Tunes Image

Musical Energy

I've noticed that my energy level (particularly in the morning) is tied to what I am listening to in a somewhat dialectical way.  This is also why I don't listen to much Iron & Wine at work.  There is also a connection to the time of day and the ambient lighting.  Specifically, I've found that if it's light and warm outside, I want something upbeat - and the hotter and brighter it is, the more pronouced is this phenomenon.  On a hot, sunny day, I'll tend to put on something hard and fast.  The reverse is also true : on a late winter afternoon when it's starting to get dark, I'll put on something much cleaner and mellow.

Marks The Spotify

So I finally starting using spotify at work.  I actually jumped through a few hoops (and you have to) to register with Spotify *without* tying it to my facebook account.  I like having more control over what sites know what I'm doing on other sites.

As for the service itself, I find it pretty cool.  It's like Pandora, but you can choose exactly what you listen to, which is a big plus.  It's a great way to look up new music, too.  And there are Windows, Mac and Linux(debian) clients available.

Irish/Shanty Folk/Rock

Over the last month or so, I've been listening to a *lot* of irish/celtic and sea-shanty type stuff.  Old irish folk songs, sea ballads from newfoundland, etc.  For a guy who doesn't drink, I like this stuff way too much.  It also seems fairly thematic with some of our current games.

I've been listening to a lot of Great Big Sea.  Their live album Road Rage is very enjoyable to listen to all of.  I like a smattering of the rest of their stuff, and I've purchased quite a few of their songs from itunes.

The Young Dubliners' With All Due Respect is good enough that I want an actual physical copy of it.  It reminds me a lot of Dropkick Murphys, but all of the tracks are traditional songs.  Their other albums are "ok" and, while there's a song or two from them that I like, they struck me as more straight up pop/rock as opposed to irish punk/rock.

Lastly, I've really enjoyed quite a few tracks from The Elders, specifically ones from American Wake and Pass It On Down.  I like about 1/2 to 2/3 of their songs, but this limitation is not for the usual reasons.  In this case, it's that I like all of the songs sung by their primary singer.  Those songs have a nice irish-rock feel, and the guy's accent is great.  The other songs aren't bad, but the other singer in the group has a rather thick southern US accent, and most (though not all) of those songs sound more like country-rock - a genre I'm not particularly fond of.

When I've not been listening to that sort of music in particular, I've been listening to a lot of live albums.  The Weakerthans' live record is pretty great, and I've been enjoying listening to multiple Barenaked Ladies' performances.  Their randomness is always fun.



Music In A Different Light

Thursday September 6, 2012 at 2:31pm music, concerts, photography Comments (0) »
 The Living Trees (pictured: lead vocals/guitar/banjo)
The Living Trees (pictured: lead vocals/guitar/banjo)

Some Local Color

Last friday I met some friends at a local coffeehouse where a local band Living Trees was playing - I was mostly there because one of my friends was playing drums with them.  They're kind of an indie/folk/bluegrass group composed of guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright & drums.  It was some interesting & enjoyable music, though the sound quality was a bit muddy and it was difficult to make out the lyrics.  The Acoustic's in-house PA leaves a bit to be desired...and the space itself is a few notches short of "ideal".  It may be for this reason that nothing really jumped out at me musically.  I'd like to see them again sometime with some better audio.

Show Photography in Bad Light

I also, predictably, took my camera along and took some photos of the show.  The lighting in there was terrible - terrible enough that the autofocus on my 50mm f1.4 prime was hunting a lot.  I shot most everything at ISO 1600, 1/200 and f2.8 - and then bumped the EV a full +2.00 and pulled the saturation down in post.  The photos are still dark and noisey, but they're not terrible.  One or two I'd even call "good".  Despite the difficulty, it was a lot of fun.  I'm always looking for new things to photograph.

Pandora's Box

I've been listening to Pandora a bit lately.  I've discovered a few more groups that I've enjoyed (particularly humourous groups like Da Vinci's Notebook, Great Big Sea, Tom Lehrer, Tripod) and some music from groups I already knew that is pretty cool as well (some stuff from The Academy Is, Iron & Wine, and some kids' albums by Barenaked Ladies).

I've been working on some recording & composition when I have the opportunity and inspiration at the same time (which is unfortunately a somewhat rare occurence).  I've come up with some new ideas lately though.


Kites, Pacing and Aspiration-to-Action

Tuesday April 10, 2012 at 2:40pm holidays, friends, photography, gaming, music Comments (0) »
Kites, Pacing and Aspiration-to-Action Image

So Sheri has this tradition of trying to fly kites on Easter sunday.  The last couple of years, it's actually worked pretty well.  Winged Deer park seems to be a good place for it.  Tony & Adam also joined us this year - I thought that was pretty cool.  We have good friends.  I think it was quite an enjoyable time - I got some good pics, too.  Some of my favorites were done with some intentional lens-flare.  There's something cozy and nostalgic about that look.  I'm not sure what it is.

Shards of Endor continued last weekend as well.  This particular session was a little unusual as the group was split for its entirety (which may be a first) and both parties were in rather tense situations - one attempting to sabotage Imperial resources, and the others discovering a particular bounty hunter was still on their trail.  The session played out in two halves as opposed to staggering events in a quasi-simultaneous fashion, but I think that was probably for the best in this circumstance - and I didn't get the impression I was losing people on either side.  The last few sessions have been interesting for me as the GM in general - I think I'm learning a bit of what works and what doesn't with this group as it relates to the kind of game I'm trying to run.  I'm starting to think that, with Star Wars, it's a good idea to keep the action moving.  That seems to work best for this particular genre.  As it's turning out though, I may be contrasting that next game with something a bit more brooding - so we may see how versatile our group can be.

I spent some time sunday night talking with a friend of mine about his musical ambitions.  I may be doing some stuff with him to help him further this goal.  We're at pretty different places with respect to how we view our musical pursuits - and what we'd ultimately like to do with them - but i always like to see a fellow creative actually doing something.  He's talked about it for a long time - and I know he's put a lot of thought into it - but it's good to see that over the last year or so, he's really starting to move forward.  I find that motivating myself.


Penguinsushi v10

Saturday March 31, 2012 at 1:40pm web development, website, music, recording Comments (0) »

Well, here we are.  Version 10.  In the last 7 years, there have been 10 iterations of this site, each constituting a complete rebuild and incorporating new things I've learned about web design & development.

As far as design goes, I was going for something cleaner, simpler and more elegant than the previous design (which was a bit more graphic rich and stylized).  In terms of architecture, this is the first version that's actually built on an MVC platform.  The specific framework is one of my own creation, loosely based on CodeIgniter.  I'm really liking it.

This new site has some new features as well.  Commenting ability has been expanded.  (Re)added a site search feature (accessible from the footer).  Games, Galleries and Albums are more official entities.  More images in sections.  General polish has been applied.

The music page has returned with an actual player.  I'm not really happy with most of what's up there as of now, but I figured I'd put it up for good measure.  Or mostly because the previous version of the site had nothing on the music page at all.  I do have plans for future recording - when I have the opportunity to do much with it.


Letting It Play

Thursday January 12, 2012 at 2:44pm music, recording, songwriting Comments (0) »
Letting It Play Image

Uhm....happy new year?

Holidays were great.  It was great to see family & friends we hadn't seen in ages.

Pictured to the right is one of the more exciting gifts I received this last season.  I think I'm all ready to go now: I've got the mic running through the mixer I got earlier last year, I've bought new strings for my guitars and I've done sound checks and level setting for almost everything.  I am ready to make the "best record ever".  I'm just lacking one thing: A little inspiration.

Ironic, isn't it?  I've been trying to write some new stuff for some time, I just haven't been satisfied with much of anything I've come up with.  I've got some great ideas, I'm just not thrilled with the manifestations.

It used to be that I'd sit down with a guitar and fiddle around till I came up with an interesting progression or melody to set some lyrics to.  Any more, however, it's harder and harder to come up with anything that I find interesting enough to pursue for more than 15 minutes.

I'm starting to think that a guitar itself is no longer sufficient - i need to hear (out loud or just in my head) other instruments and how they might compliment my efforts.  

Also, I think I'm getting harder to please.

I've been spending some time mic'ing stuff up and playing guitar(s) through the system to hear what it sounds like, occasionally layering a couple of tracks - and I'm generally more satisfied with what I'm getting that way, though not much has clicked quite yet.  

Trying to tackle this hobby from a different angle like this is a bit of a new exercise for me, and not exactly a simple one.  I've come close to something cool a few times, but I haven't jumped in quite yet.

Also, I think I need carve out some larger chunks of time for a project like this - something I've not been able to do as yet.  So I guess I'm lacking two things.


A Quiet Late Summer

Monday October 3, 2011 at 2:00pm gaming, music, photography Comments (1) »
A Quiet Late Summer Image

Except, you know, for the occasional screaming munchkin.

I guess not much noteworthy has been going on lately.  The blog seems to have slept through september.  Here are a few points of quasi-interest on hobbies, etc:


- I have noticed that I am currently involved in a ridiculous number of ongoing rpgs - 4, to be exact - and that my social life mostly centers around them at the moment.  I guess this isn't surprising considering that most of my friends *are* gamers.

- We started our Star Wars game ("Shards of Endor") about a week ago.  This is actually the first time I've run an ongoing campaign *not* set in a swords-and-sorcery style fantasy setting.  We've only had one playing session, but I think it's going quite well so far.

- Robb has (finally) started his Changling game, which I'm having a really good time with.  A really short time, but a good time.  Our monday-night sessions seem to be playing from about 7-9pm, which sometimes feels like quitting right after you get started.  I'm hoping our actual starting time can be pushed back to the theoretical 6 as we go on.  It's also got me thinking a bit about the future of my temporarily-suspended Mage game...

- On our sunday night games: Patrick's Star Wars game continues to be fun.  I've been really enjoying the short Dresden Files game Rucht has been running and I'm hoping to have a chance to do more with the Fate 3.0 system.  We're going to be starting Pathfinder later this month (when Dresden ends) - which will mark the first time I've played in a fantasy campaign in years.


- I've tried to do a little on the songwriting front, but haven't made it much further than jotting down a few vague concepts.  

- I've spent some time fiddling around on my guitars too, but I'm feeling a little uninspired at the moment.

- I've been listening to MCR's Danger Days quite a bit lately - an album I was pretty skeptical about at first, but found that I really enjoyed after a couple of listens.  Also, Anberlin, The Decemberists and the two songs from the end credits of the Portal games having recently played the first to completion ("This was a triumph...").


- Most of my camera time has been spent pointed at Hannah, but that's probably to be expected.  She's 4 months old and exceptionally cute. :D  ...and we've recently learned she'll have some new playmates in a year or so.

- Sheri pointed out that I don't have any 2011 photos on my site here yet - maybe I'll put some up when I have a few minutes together.

- I did take some pictures at the picnic the company I now work for had in mid-september that turned out pretty good.  I think the people at the office have enjoyed them.

- And, of course, I also had fun taking pictures of the 2011 Talk Like A Pirate Party & Annual Nerf War.  Those always turn out...amusing.



Recordings Re-Revisited

Sunday July 17, 2011 at 10:56pm music, recording Comments (0) »
Recordings Re-Revisited Image

Like I mentioned before, I've been wanting to do some recording again, but am lacking some of the equipment i still need to open up shop.  So I've been doing the next best thing.

I dug up a few old recordings that I've made over the years, but for whatever reason never finished mixing.  Over the last few weeks, I've started working on them again - employing some new tools and techniques as well.

• Today Was Fine

• No Wonder

• Simple Equations

These aren't especially great songs, but they're ok and I've learned a bit playing with them some more.  I figured I'd post them here, but they're not enough to mark a real return of the Music page.  

I have plans for that, however...

Edit: Something went awry in my exporting process.  I've remastered, exported and re-uploaded these songs. Turns out I'd forgotten to turn off GarageBand's "we assume you don't know what you're doing" feature...

Edit #2: I have remastered these songs yet again. A casual listen probably won't notice much difference, but they are now approaching the production level I'll be shooting for on future projects.


Rebuilding the Home Studio

Friday June 24, 2011 at 2:38pm music, recording Comments (0) »
Rebuilding the Home Studio Image

Some of you may have noticed that the music page still reads "returning soon".  One might argue that this has proven false.  Still, for the last few months I've been wanting to get back into recording again.  The problem with this is that I've only ever borrowed the equipment I need to do it well, and I don't have access to much at the moment.  I've been wanting to buy some of my own stuff for a while too, but things have been a bit tight lately.

Not that I need real high end stuff, mind you.  I've been quite happy with the results I've managed with quite a meager setup, but after looking around at what I'd buy were I do reconstruct my home studio, I do need a few hundred dollars to put into it - a few hundred dollars which I don't really have at the moment.  Anyone who wants to make donations is welcome.  Really.



Anyway, last weekend was Fathers Day.  My first, since our little girl was born back in May.  Combining this fact with the aforementioned desires, Sheri decided I should go ahead and buy the first "piece" of what I wanted.

After some consideration, I decided the first piece was a mixer - even with nothing else, I could record some guitar & bass tracks.  I've got a decent recording machine, some DAW software I like and instruments to play, but I didn't have any way to connect the dots.  In the past I have bridged this gap by simply running an analog tape-out from a borrowed mixer to the line-in on my computer - and I found this to work well.  I considered looking for a simple USB audio interface instead of a full-out mixer, but I enjoyed my method and I would eventually like to be able to do some multiple-mic'ing on instruments.  Plus, for what I wanted to spend, I was going to get more features out of a mixer.  Also, I like to be able to do some pre-recording eq & gain teaking instead of relying on the software for all of it.

I ended up going with the Behringer's Xenyx X1204USB.  4 mic inputs, 60mm faders and a built-in usb audio interface (which i'm looking forward to trying out).  In addition, this board has a built in compressor and other effects which I really didn't need, but the identical model without effects was actually a few bucks more.  Anyway, I've definitely got some room to grow with it.


The only other things I really need are some decent mics.  I've done most of my previous work with a Shure SM58, and that proved to be a good mic - and one that I may return to.  Right now, however, I have my sights on a pair of SM57's - mostly because they are legendarily good at everything, and I need a versatile mic.  I'm also tempted to pick up one of Behringer's condenser mics at some point - mostly because they're exceptionally inexpensive and fairly well reviewed.  A condenser would be pretty awesome, even if I'm not sure I'll ever have a house quiet enough to use one (see previously-mentioned baby girl). 


My mixer arrived yesterday but, due to the Meetup (more on this to come), I haven't had a chance to do more than take it out of the box and "oooh" and "aaaah" over it a little.  I'm hoping to have a decent mic setup in time for next year's RPM in Feb.

And some songs written, too.



The Decemberists, Country Music, and the Playlist

Wednesday May 4, 2011 at 7:55pm music Comments (0) »
The Decemberists, Country Music, and the Playlist Image

So I recently picked up The King is Dead - The Decemberists' latest endeavor.  I was greatly chagrinned not to be able to acquire it back on the Jan. 18th release date, but I would say the wait has been worth it.

The Decemberists have been a favorite group of mine (very possibly *the* favorite, in fact) for more than 5 years now.  I do listen to quite a wide variety of music ("shuffle" on my playlist can, in fact, be somewhat jarring), but nothing has grabbed my fancy so much as to displace their quirky style from the top of my personal list.  Their last offering, The Hazards of Love, was wonderful though pretty significantly different from their previous records, so I was unsure what to expect from The King is Dead.  Some friends of mine told me that it has a rather greater folk or country influence than the others - and I can definitely see that.

"Country" music is something that I tend to approach with great caution.  One might also say "trepidation".  Or, sometimes, "scorn".  "Pop country", what you'd generally hear on any current radio station professing to be "Country", has a reputation for irritating the crap out of me.  That last statement is rather understated, but I don't wish to belabor it too far.  I'd say I like less than 1% of what they offer and actively dislike at least 75% - though very occasionally there is something I find clever, interesting or otherwise enjoyable.  Southern/Southwestern/Country-inspired rock is a bit of a different animal, and there are some groups fitting this genre that I enjoy listening to - Cowboy Mouth, The Refreshments, Old 97's.  Please note Lynyrd Skynyrd is not listed among them. Then there is also the Folk genre, which can sometimes blur the line between that which might be called country-ish and acoustic rock (See Also: Iron & Wine, Great Lake Swimmers, Fleet Foxes).  I left off Nickel Creek, which I also enjoy, because I'm not sure exactly where to put them. 

I have come to believe that it is not actually "country music" that i dislike inherently, only the archetypical implementation thereof: exaggerated.  Cowboy hats, pickup trucks, gender stereotypes, the 'good old boy' mentality, southern accents turned up to know the drill.  There's also an Axebeard Law equivalent regarding the typical lyrical content of this particular "style", but I don't want to dissect that just now.  Fortunately, The King Is Dead is none of these things.

On some specifics:

The opening track, Don't Carry It All, is just plain wonderful.  It near-instantly became one of my favorite songs they've recorded to date, possibly tied with Yankey Bayonet, Won't Want for Love and one or two others.  So many lines from that song I really love...

/let every vessel pitching hard to starboard/lay its head on summer's freckled knees/

/and you must bear your neighbor's burden within reason/and your labors will be borne when all is done/

/let the yolk fall from our shoulders/don't carry it all, don't carry it all/we are all our hands and holders/beneath this bold and brilliant sun/this i swear to all/

Down By The Water, which they released a month or two early as a free download, is also very good and This Is Why We Fight is another real winner.

The other songs on the album are, as of now, generally an 8 of 10 for my vote.  All of them are very good songs that I enjoy listening to, though nothing that necessarily blows me away - several (perhaps nearly all) of them, however, have some wonderfully clever lyrics tucked inside, and this is what i've come to expect and love from the Decemberists...  

/there are times life will rattle your bones and will bend your limbs/but you're still far and away the boy you've ever been/

/hey henry, can you hear me?/let me see those eyes/this distance between us/can seem a mountain size/

/and you won't make a dime/on this gray granite mountain mine/of dirt you're made and to dirt you will return/

I do have some minor compositional beefs which I started to outline here, but it's really just nit-picking and probably not terribly interesting to anyone else.  Suffice to say that, in my opinion, one or two of the "good" songs could have been "great".  Still, it's nothing that ruins it for me.

Bottom line is, I really like this latest record, and I would recommend it to anyone who's enjoyed the Decemberists' previous albums and anyone who enjoys folk-rock with some eccentricity.


On some other not-especially-current albums i've been enjoying lately:

First off, I have to mention Rainer Maria's (ironically) final album Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, which is an amazing record.  A few songs from their other albums are pretty good as well (particularly tracks like Atropine and Hell and High Water from A Better Version Of Me), but this one is very, very solid as a whole.

/the future's going out of focus/our talk is cheap, but the phone bill is not/and how could one word/mean another?/and why am i staying up alone in the dark?/when it all falls through/what else can i tell you?/you just can't turn me on and off/you turn me on and off/

/catastrophe keeps us together/we're the architects of the world/we're taking it all apart - /do you think we could go on forever/when the architects of the war/are handing out the swords?/

/the day we played as kids among the headstones/we pretended we had died/but now something's changed/we don't play games/and time has proved you right/and now memory has distorted your light/sing me something clear and true/in some otherworldly tune/if you were here i'd make it up for you/yeah, i'd make it up for you with the song i loved the most/i know you're here/and i'm not afraid of ghosts/

/how many rounds can i go?/and how can i soften the blows?/can i avoid them altogether?/my heart isn't in this/i'm supposed to be a seasoned fighter/feels like my first hit/and it hurts like hell/

In a huge stylistic divergence from the records previously mentioned herein, I've also been listening to quite a bit of Flogging Molly lately, specifically the album Float, but also quite a bit from other records.  This is another group I really love - and would really like to go see if they ever come within 100 miles again.  

/sick and tired of what to say/no one listens anyway/sing, that's all you can/

/oh an angel clipped my wings/from the back of a broken dream/so they'll probably never break my fall again/for i return to sing this tune/from the back of a broken dream/

/oh it's bitter the pill/that you swallow to feel/i don't care what i lost/just thank god i'm alive/makes it all who you are/that's the story so far/

I also want to give an honorable mention to mewithoutYou's It's All Crazy... - I've not listened to it as much lately, but it's never too far from my playlist.  The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie, of course, is classic - but there are some other great tunes on that album as well like Every Thought A Thought Of You and The Beetle King on a Coconut Estate.

Finally, I've been listening to The Starting Line's Based On A True Story, which is a concept album in a darker vein of "life imitates art" - and it's very well executed in my opinion.


Return of Photos and Current Gaming Projects

Thursday October 21, 2010 at 1:12pm photography, job search, jamming, music, gaming Comments (0) »
Return of Photos and Current Gaming Projects Image

Ok, so the photo gallery is back up and running - to an extent.  I actually have plans to make the photo page a bit more robust, but I haven't felt "into" working on it that much lately and I'm tired of seeing the "returning soon..." on the page. 

I've included a 2010 Portfolio on the new page, as much because the page looks much better with 3 entries than with only two than anything else.  I think there are some good shots in there, but, sadly, I haven't had as many days of dedicated shooting this year.  I'm hoping to take advantage of one of these nice fall days to do some before it gets cold...   ...we'll see if I'm motivated to actually do that or not.  It's not that I don't want to do it, it's more that I've just been...uninspired.

Speaking of being uninspired, the job search continues to be frustrating.  There just aren't enough opportunities in the area.  I've found multiple hits in various locations an average distance of 4 or 5 hours away that are pretty much exactly what I do (and I've even sent an inquiry email to a company in knoxville, about 2 hours away), but there's just not that much around here - at least, not at the moment.  Also, the things that *are* around here that are "kind of" in my line don't seem to be panning out so much.  Erg.

On more fun things - because that's what I like to talk about on this blog:

Well, I mentioned that I haven't done much photography lately and I haven't felt like working on the website, so...what does that leave? *looks at menu bar*

Robb & I have been jamming with Josh and Bill some more.  This has been lots of fun.  We've been working on the same 5 cover songs (Plea from a Cat Named Virtue by the Weakerthans, Creep by Radiohead, Jenny Says by Cowboy Mouth and Burn and Stupid Kid by the Alkaline Trio) - trying to get them nice and smooth before we branch out some more.  Some of them are more solid than others, but we're having fun.  Also, we did a rather spontenous arrangement of The Melting Point of Wax (by Thrice) during last session, and that ruled.  I really want to play some version of that song, but Thrice's drummer is...insane...and Bill doesn't think he's up to it.

On some gaming:

My Sandstorm and London 1802 games have both been going really well.  I think both have a great story unfolding and interesting characters.  Also, both have an ending in mind.  This is an oddity for me - I generally just let games go until whenever.  I don't know exactly how it's going to go down or how the parties are going to get there, but I know where the story is heading, and I know where the climax is.  I also know what will happen if the party goes completely into left field.  I'm really enjoying these games, but oddly, I'm looking forward to the ending of the stories.  It's kind of the same way you look forward to the end of a good book or movie - you want to see exactly how it ends.  This time, I know it *has* an ending.

I'm also enjoying Rucht's Rogue Trader game, though I still feel a bit off-balance in the 40k universe.  I'm a little torn this aspect - sometimes I think I really like it, sometimes I think it's not my thing.  I think my big issue is simply the weight of too much canon - it feels restricting.  I tend to like settings which the GM - and also the players - affect not only what's happeneing in the setting, but also what the setting is like.  When I run games in a given setting (almost always one of my own creation), I tend to adjust the feel and flavor of the setting based on what I think the players are enjoying the most.  This just isn't something you can easily do if you care about staying "faithful" to a published setting.

I'd like to give Patrick's Star Wars game a nod as well, though I haven't quite been "feeling" it of late.  I think most of this is my fault.  One of the cool things about this game from my perspective is that my character has actually changed considerably over the course of play.  I'm not sure if it's obvious to the other players, but it's very apparent to me.  Unfortunately, one of the effects of this change is that he has become much more introverted and reflective, which is making roleplaying with the other players less frequent than I'd like.  I'm considering how I might nudge the character out of his shell so that he's more fun to play without breaking verisimilitude.  Also, there are a couple of annoyances in this game, but again, it's my hangup. 

As always, I have multiple games in the works, on a variety of levels.  I have 3-ring binders for each of my games' notes, but I have one entire tabbed binder that is nothing but sideprojects.

I've mentioned my Savage 3025 idea before, and I've continued to refine parts of it.  I was actually talking a bit about this game with Matt over the weekend, which was cool.  I think he's the only other guy I know that has any knowledge or interest in the Battletech universe.  He also seemed interested in playing in the game whenever I get around to running it, which I think would pretty awesome.  As the date suggests to the initiated, this will be a Succession Wars era campaign, and is meant to follow a lance (a reason I want exactly 4 players) in the service of one of the Great Houses.  Despite the fact that most of my "work" on this system has been on the 'mech combat rules, I expect characters to spend as much or more time out of their 'mechs.  This is another reason why I wanted to use a mod of Savage Worlds: so that I could have a consistent system for roleplaying scenarios on both scales.  This definitely won't be a strictly combat/tactical game - the politics and roleplaying interactions surrounding any actual conflicts will be more important than the battles themselves.

Another idea I've been working on lately - and this is something I've been kicking around for a few years - is a game based around the cosmology of Myst.  This has probably resurged as a sideproject as I've just finished playing through Riven and have started Exile.  Still, the rpg I have in mind really won't have much in common with the games, which are primarily puzzlers, neither will it pay any attention to canon.  Rather, I simply wish to take the feel of the universe of Myst - microcosmic "Ages" created through and connected by Linking Books, which are crafted through a specific arcane art of Authoring - and plug in more traditional aspects of a tabletop rpg.  One of the many things I think could be really cool about this sort of game is that I'd like for the players to, at some point, begin to actually write their own Ages to explore and play in - and I have many ideas on how this could be accomplished and manifest.  I'm unfamiliar with any other game where the players can (literally) write their own settings into the universe, and this idea greatly intrigues me - enough that this is probably the project I'm most interested in at the moment.

I've also written a few pages of notes on a western game I'm calling "In the Cards".  Basically, I decided that in order to properly capture the feel of a western themed game, the mechanics should be a bit more approrpriate.  Basically, the game takes place around poker hands.  Normal tasks would be resolved via a "high card" - the player plays a card from his/her hand against the GM's draw from the deck (results "modified" by options available to players skilled in the task in question, etc).  More dramatic scenes, such as shoot-outs or heated arguments, would be played out as a slightly tweaked hand of poker - wherein each involved player invests him/herself in the scene, performing simple draw actions, and continually "upping the ante" until some dramatic moment "calls" the hand, and the final results of the conflict are evaluated based on the winner.  I also have some additional ideas on how players can hedge their bets - such as the idea of having cards "up the sleeve", which they can pull out in appropriate circumstances.

Bot has been put on the back-burner for the time being.  I will mention that it got positive reviews at Gamesplosion and I think it has a lot of potential, but I'm still thinking over some streamlining and I'm having some trouble coming up with stories to tell in such an eccentric world.  I know they're there, I'd just need to get my brain into that mode.


A Few Notes

Wednesday February 24, 2010 at 11:17am musicals, theatre, friends, gaming Comments (0) »

...for posterity, I guess.

Sheri & I went to see Milligan's production of the 'Little Women' musical on friday. It was amazingly good. There are some seriously talented people in the Milligan Theatre dept... ...and the musicians did a fantastic job also. We had a good time.

On saturday, we hung out with Llama & helped him take a rental car back. He's still looking for a new steed.

Our friend Steve moved *back* to SC this week, and this made us sad. He'd only been back into the area for a few months. It just turned out that he wasn't able to help with the music at his church back in SC as well as he wanted from here, and he was only seeing his daughter every couple of weeks anyway. He just decided it made more sense to be there for now. Hopefully we'll get to see him occasionally.

My gaming hobby has been dominating my 'hobby time' lately. It's too cold to be out taking pictures and, while i've been playing my acoustic a bit lately, I haven't come up with anything original. Mostly just playing some covers I'm fond of.

I picked up a couple of new gaming books over the weekend: Mr. K's had some copies of White-Wolf's current World of Darkness core rules & Mage: The Awakening books. I probably wouldn't have bought 'em new, but half-price for current editions was irresistible. Since I picked those up on friday, I have gone through them both with a broad-toothed comb - which is to say, I read both books, but I skipped things that a) were redundant b) i already knew or c) didn't seem necessary to know completely in total (such as the 150+ pages of spells in Mage).
I remembered really liking Robb's Werewolf games at RuchtCon & Thanksgaming and I've found I really like the current rules set for WoD. Exalted (another WW game) is fun and the concept/setting is cool, but the system is (in my opinion) somewhat muddled and over-complicated. WoD seems to keep things (relatively) simple. I'm also drawn to the fact that it's *different* from our normal games (both in concepts & mechanics), and I've been all about some change for about the last year. I'll probably be looking to start a WoD campaign in the not-too-distant future. I've already got some ideas.

Some things I've mentioned before, more imminently:

With respect to other gaming, Rucht is planning to start his Rogue Trader game tomorrow night, and I'm scheduled to run both of my current games this weekend (after a month interim). I'm also *still* looking to get ahold of a few indie game books I've mentioned previously, but haven't had a chance to yet.

Also, we (our local circle of friends) have a friend visiting from out of town this weekend. Thes is coming in later tomorrow night to hang out with us until monday morning. That should be a fun time. :)


Hobbies, Decisions and Snow-covered Lands

Thursday February 11, 2010 at 12:34pm music, friends, gaming, church, work Comments (3) »

I think we're getting more than our fair share of snow this year. Or, more than we've ended up with the last 10 years or so anyway.

Usually I talk about my friends, my hobbies and stuff that's been happening on this thing. Not too much fits that bill lately.

Aside from picking up the acoustic from time to time (occasionally with friends), I haven't done much with 'music' lately. I have a recording or two that I could post, but I'm really not completely happy with them. In fact, I've become increasingly critical of my writing & composition. I think when I finally do get some stuff that I like recorded, it will probably be a bit different from past projects. Who knows.

I've wanted to take some pictures lately too, but I think I've photographed everything in my general vicinity and I haven't been anywhere new... ...and I haven't been particularly inspired by any 'new angles' on things available.

We've had some more scheduling conflicts with our gaming. These aren't all bad, but I'm still trying to figure out when we can play again.

We have done a little hanging out with a few friends lately. Robb & I got together to play some guitar last week and then went out for pizza (and sandwiches) and the hideously-colored Generous George's.

I've also been hanging out with Steve a bit lately, helping him record some of his songs. I've also recently dug out my Magic cards and he & I have played a few games of that. That's been fun, though I haven't been able to convince Sheri to learn it yet. I've always enjoyed that game, but most of the people I know stopped playing it quite a while back. Others I know have moved on to only playing it on the 360, but, like Carcassonne, I'd prefer to play the actual, physical game - and then there's the fact that I don't own a 360...

In other news, as she mentioned on her blog, Sheri has resigned as choir director for our church - mostly because the choir was pretty much dissolving anyway. This puts us somewhat in 'limbo' with regard to what we'll do next. It feels kind of awkward in Erwin, and we've talked about visiting some other places closer to where we live. Nothing's actually be decided though.

As she *hasn't* mentioned on her blog (as yet), Sheri's also been doing some writing. She's about 60 pages into a story, and I think she's doing a great job with it - which is why I mention it.

Work is work and, aside from a few frustrations, has been pretty good. The last month or so has been a continual swing from really busy to really slow and back again. Not too much going on at the moment, so I'm just looking over some stuff. I know some other things will be on their way to me soon, though.


Muppet Music

Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 2:43pm muppets, music Comments (0) »

So Sheri and I were watching the Muppet Movie the other night and I found that I was really enjoying the music in it. Like, enough that I actually wanted to learn to play some of it. So I got out my guitar and started searching the 'net for chords or tab for "Rainbow Connection" and "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday". After about an hour, I could play through both of those passably and have been very amused by this.

Sure they're a little sappy, but they're actually good, well-written songs. You really can't say that about music from too many family/kids movies...


A Season's Reflection In Music

Thursday December 31, 2009 at 3:29pm music, lyrics Comments (0) »
A Season's Reflection In Music Image

Amongst other things, I got an iTunes gift card for christmas. Since Mahto had shown me this video, I decided I wanted to check out some other stuff by this band.

I have been impressed.

A Stick, A Carrot & String ~ Me Without You

the horse's hay beneath his head
our Lord was born to a manger bed
that all whose wells run dry
could drink of His supply

to keep Him warm, the sheep drew near
so grateful for His coming here
come with news of grace
come to take my place

the donkey whispered in His ear
"child, in 30-some-odd years
you'll ride someone who looks like me

the cardinals warbled a joyful song
"He'll make right what man made wrong
bringing low the hills
that the valleys might be filled"

then "child", asked the birds
"well, aren't they lovely words we sing?"
the tiny baby laid there
without saying anything

at a distance stood a mangy goat
with the crooked teeth and a matted coat
weary eyes and worn
chipped and twisted horns

thinking "maybe I'll make friends someday
with the cows in the pens and the rambouillet
but for now, I'll keep away
I've got nothing smart to say"

there's a sign on the barn
in the cabbage town
"when the rain picks up
and the sun goes down
sinners, come inside
with no money, come and buy

no clever talk, nor a gift to bring
requires our lowly, lovely King
come now empty handed, you don't need anything"

and the night was cool
and clear as glass
with the sneaking snake in the garden grass
deep cried out to deep
the disciples fast asleep

and the snake perked up
when he heard You ask
"if You're willing that this cup might pass
we could find our way back home
maybe start a family all our own"

"but does not the Father guide the Son?
not my will, but Yours be done.
what else here to do?
what else me, but You?"

and the snake who'd held the world
a stick, a carrot and a string
was crushed beneath the foot
of Your not wanting anything


Easing into the Holidays

Wednesday December 9, 2009 at 1:34pm holidays, birthdays, friends, music, recording, anime, video games, gaming Comments (0) »

The holidays are fast approaching, but this year hasn't become as hectic (yet) as years past.

We have our vacation time planned out now - we'll be gone to the IN/OH area from the afternoon of the 20th through the 28th. We'll get to go to christmas parties on both sides of my extended family this year, which will be cool. Still need to finalize some details - like when to meet up with some people and who might be able to take care of Ally.

Other stuff (in no real order):

The Social Theory class I had been sitting in on came to a close, which is kinda sad. I was enjoying that. Dr. Beck took us out for lunch on Dec 1st - this was a reward for the class's good grades and they invited me to come along for fun. I brought them cookies on the last day of class. They were a little abnormal in terms of shape & consistency, but tasty.

Our friend Steve has moved back into the area, and it's been fun trying to catch up with him a bit. We've been talking a bit about music & recording and he wants to get back into a little tabletop gaming too. I've set part of my recording 'studio' up and have been playing a bit with Addictive Drums and AmpliTube. I've been looking at electronic drum kits again too.

We're planning what should be a fun new-years-eve party at the Hippie Hut Mk. II, though we are very sad that our EP & co. will not be able to make it. :(

Yesterday was Sheri's birthday. We went to the crazy tomato and then to best buy to buy a movie. We ended up getting Evangelion:1.01 - the first of 4 feature-length movies which are to be a retelling of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series. It was pretty faithful to the original. On the downside, I doubt the next one will come out before next christmas.
Also, for one of her birthday presents, I got her Super Mario Wii, which she was very excited about. :) We played a couple levels of that too - it's hugely entertaining.

Still haven't got to playtest my new roleplaying system, but hopefully soon.


The View from Labor Day '09

Monday September 7, 2009 at 3:55pm sociology, milligan, photography, music, gaming, concerts Comments (0) »
The View from Labor Day '09 Image

Ah, yes. A holiday. This basically means I slept in (more). We haven't done a whole lot today. We did take Ally to walk around Sycamore Shoals - and she actually voluntarily jumped into the river!! So...maybe it's not the water that makes her dislike baths? It was quite hilarious...


I feel like I've been busy lately, but my calendar seems to disagree.

I've been trying to read some sociology lately. Dr. Beck, one of my favorite professors from Milligan, told me earlier in the summer when we were chatting at a Milligan picnic that if I ever wanted to sit in on any of her classes, I'd be welcome to. I responded by warning her that if she offered such an invitation, I would, in fact, show up. So ever since the semester started a couple weeks ago, I've been trying to make it to her Social Theory class on my lunch break on tuesdays and thursdays. I bring my laptop along and sit in on the discussions whilst going about my normal work - this is one of the great things about having a job like mine: I can pretty much work from anywhere I can get a 'net connection.

It has been very interesting. I've found that I miss having to think critically to understand things. While my job is very stimulating and requires a lot of creative thinking, it's far less taxing than reading Durkheim.

I got a call a while back from Sue Shanks at WAPC who asked me if I'd put up some of my pictures in Watauga's Gallery / Coffeehouse (Just Coffee) for about a month. I told her that sounded like fun, and since then I've gone through and selected about 25 of my pictures to get prints of and then mount in some mats and frames (where available/affordable). I've been getting the pictures printed as 8x10's, which necessitates some cropping since the aspect ratio of my camera's frame isn't the same as 8x10. For this and other reasons, I think some of my pictures look better on my computer screen than in the frames, but many of them look wonderful and I'm excited to have some hard copies and to get to share them. I've been working on getting them set up and thinking up interesting names for them (I like naming things). After the show, I'll probably end up giving quite a few of them away to people that want them.

The "show" officially "opens" this Friday, September 11th around 8pm 7pm at Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church in the gallery downstairs. I'll be hanging out there most of evening. If you're reading this, you should come hang out with me, play some games, listen to some music (no salsa, I promise) and look at some pictures.

I've been playing my electric guitar quite a bit, but haven't done much with the band in the last couple of weeks.

On the gaming front, We had a very enjoyable second Mouse Guard session last night. As I've mentioned before, I'm finding that I'm needing to tweak a few rules to my liking, but overall I love the game immensely.

I've also been enjoying Patrick's Star Wars game quite a bit - last time, we found ourselves sucked into a Bonanza episode, and actually, it was quite awesome.

I've made a little more progress on my developing rp system, but I tend to go back-and-forth on a lot of things.

Sheri and I are making plans to head to AR for Ben's wedding in a couple of weeks and then, after that, we have tickets to go see the Decemberists in Asheville on the 25th!!!


We're back

We're back Image

As some have commented, not too many knew we ever left. Probably because it was the sort of trip that was difficult to be real "excited" (and therefore talk much) about.

Last friday Sheri and I headed up to IN. The main reason for the trip was to go to the memorial service for her grandmother, who passed away back in april. As you might expect, it was a nice, if somewhat sad, time.

We spent some time with some of sheri's dad's family - for the first time, really. Stanley and Bonnie were hosting us as well as sheri's parents for the weekend. They were really nice and fun to chat with and we ended up talking with them for quite a while after her parents left on monday.

We also got to meet Ben's fiance. She seems nice, if quite shy. It was kind of a shame we didn't get more of a chance to hang out.

We also stopped in on my parents for about a day, which was great. We played some games and talked and generally had a good time.

While we were there, a rather significant storm system came through tuesday morning that resulted in flooding, power loss and downed trees. the downed trees resulted in a bit of a wet adventure as we tried to make it back to their house from lunch.

And, as I try to do each time I go to IN, I had Noble Roman's pizza and breadsticks. Tasty.

I put a few pictures from the trip up in the Gallery - mostly pictures of scenery and small children.

On some other stuff:

About a week ago we had the 3rd session for Little Fears (session synopsis on the gaming page soon). It went so-so. It was a little slow and certain elements didn't manifest quite the way I'd hoped, but it was alright. Hopefully next session will be a little more satisfying.

Last thursday we (me, robb, josh & bill) had our second band practice. Improvement from the previous session was 100%, not that that first practice wasn't great. That was the most fun I've had playing guitar in 5 years or more. :) Right now we're just doing cover songs, but we've talked briefly about maybe trying to write some stuff. We've also talked about possibly playing some small local shows once we get good and solid. We're planning to get together tomorrow for more fun. On a related note, I should be getting an eq to run my amp through soon.


Gaming Projects, etc

Monday June 22, 2009 at 10:22am gaming, video games, music Comments (0) »
Gaming Projects, etc Image

So I just looked at my calendar for last week, and, apart from work, it's completely empty... ...yet, I feel like I've been very busy somehow.

Apart from the Little Fears session (which was awesome :)) we had at the beginning of this month and the Star Wars game I've joined, we haven't gamed in like two months. Yes, I realize that sounds dumb (ala, "aside from this gaming, I haven't gamed at all"). I guess what I really mean to say is that, due to massive scheduling conflicts, both of my normal, weekend gaming groups have been out of commission for a while. Since April 25th, to be exact.

I'd probably be feeling more severe withdraw symptoms, but I've been using the interim to work on my new gaming system. It's currently composed of about 15 pages of rules and examples plus some prototype character sheets. I also bought about $10 worth of glass pebbles to be used as various markers/tokens for this system. It's pretty much ready to playtest at this point and now that the foundation is laid, I'm about ready to move on to writing some setting stuff. The system itself is designed to be setting-independent, so my options for setting design are pretty much limitless. :)

Once the game reaches Beta (that is, once I've had a chance to playtest it for a few sessions), I intend to post everything in its own little corner of my site. I'm really excited about this thing. Some of you know I've designed systems before, but they've all been very informal and not terribly complete - which is to say, once i started fleshing them out, I abandoned the concepts because they weren't going to work as well as I'd like. This one, on the other hand, has proven to be exactly what I wanted, it has been reasonably well documented and has been developed and tweaked over the course of the last year or more. I feel like it has really solidified - and, most importantly, has remained true to its root philosophies (more on that at a later date).

In other gaming news, I'm still very much looking forward to the Mouse Guard game. I actually got the last issue in the current series (Winter 1152) yesterday, and it's quite good. I previously hadn't thought much about Mouse Guard in a while because, as I said, the group has been unable to meet to play the game and I've been working on other projects. Hopefully (reasonably) soon.

On a different gaming note, over the last week, I've begun and nearly completed the original NES Metroid which I downloaded for my Wii. I even got as far as destroying Mother Brain, but was unable to get out before it exploded (possibly because I thought I had to go back out the way I came in). It's been fun, if occasionally frustrating. After I finally beat it, I think i'll see about getting the SNES Super Metroid.

On a not-at-all-gaming note, The songwriting/music part of my brain has been occasionally bouncing some ideas around as well. I really need to start doing some writing for next year's RPM...


On a Variety of Recent Activities

Sunday June 14, 2009 at 4:39pm weddings, trips, friends, churches, songwriting, music, gitp, gaming Comments (7) »

Sheri, Llama and I took a trip out to North Carolina this weekend to attend our friend Kevin's wedding. It was a nice little ceremony. We're all very happy for them. Stephanie is sweet, and well suited to Kevin in a number of ways. It was good to see him so obviously happy too.

I must confess a bit of mild camera-gear-envy with respect to the photographers' toys. Also, there was a penguin cake at the reception, which was cool.

We got to see some other mutual friends there too - William and Ginger and Mike and Bethany. It's always good to see people we don't get to hang out with much (esp. Ginger who just moved away from us). We spent saturday afternoon and evening hanging out and playing games with Ginger and William. It was a lot of fun - we don't play games as much as we used to.

The car ride was a bit long, and I think Llama was starting to get a little loopy by 2am when we got home, but the trip was successfully completed.

This morning we went to Hopwood Christian Church. We had originally thought we were still going to be in NC this morning and so had arranged for Sheri to have this morning off at our church, but we ended up coming home saturday night and so decided to visit somewhere else. It was nice, actually. Jim Street had a great message about how to bless a fish (heh), and it was probably the most thought-provoking message i've heard in a while - and one that I truly thought embodies the spirit of christianity. We saw the Rosolinas (who we're still trying to have over for dinner sometime) there and also Brian West and his family (who i hadn't had a chance to talk much to in a while). Brian and Danielle invited us over for lunch, and we ended up hanging out and talking for a quite a while.

Brian is trying to get motivated to record some of his songs, and I think this is a great idea. He's been writing for a long time, and he's really into it - but most of his stuff just gets left on the page after it's written and he doesn't have any really good sounding recordings of any of it. We had a lengthy and interesting talk about the technical and artistic aspects of songwriting and recording. I really hope he does something with this. I've even offered to help with the technical stuff which intimidates him a little - not because i'm great, but because i've at least done it before. Maybe it'll get him started.

Tonight we're supposed to have a planning meeting for OotsCon '09. Our crowd this year looks a little smaller and some key people will be missing (and they will be missed), but some *other* people are able to make it this year. Hopefully it will be as successful as it's been the last two years. It's really not about the numbers, it's about the fun - there were only 13 11 of us at the first OotsCon back in '07. Hopefully we'll be able to get our plans ironed out.

My homebrew gaming system has reached Alpha status. I have just a couple more mechanical aspects to iron out, and then the first round of playtesting will begin with whoever i can get to help me out with this. I've discussed the theory of the system at some length with Sheri and Tony, and they both seemed to think it has some potential. It is definitely a bit different in its root philosophy from the games like D&D that we're used to - but I personally think these differences are a *good* thing. At whatever point the system reaches Beta, I'll be posting some more detailed info on it.


Blue Plum, etc

Blue Plum, etc Image

This weekend was Johnson City's annual Blue Plum Festival. Basically, it's a weekend event that takes over downtown JC the first weekend in June. I did, in fact, see some people selling(?) plums, but they were pretty sparse. Mostly it's a bunch of crafts/vendor booths, tons of festival food, and three stages spaced just far enough apart that they don't overlap acoustically (too much).

This was the first year that I would say we've "gone" to the festival. We went and walked around a little a couple years ago, but didn't do or see much - but that was largely ok since it was about 97 degrees. This year, we met up with some friends and enjoyed an afternoon of meandering around together - and I was having a good time taking some pictures. We also met up with some other friends of Robb & Edie's and also with Mahto and some of his buddies so that by the time we had dinner at Mid City, we were a rather sizable group (aside: we still have to get together with Steven for a game of Munchkin).

After our tasty dinner, we went back to a particular stage to see a band called Cutthroat Shamrock. They had been compared by some friends of mine to groups like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. They are basically an Irish-flavored punk group. I wouldn't say they were amazing, but it was a good show: they all played their instruments well and had good stage presence and personality. About the only "critique" i would give is that most of their songs had the same kind of sound. It was a *good* sound, there just wasn't much variety. Still, i think a couple of friends picked up a couple of their records, and i liked them enough to be interested in hearing some more.

Some pictures of the Blue Plum are up in the Gallery.

(kinda) Speaking of, i'm looking into possibly picking up my music hobby again sometime soon for some song writing (maybe for next year's rpm).

In gaming news: I finally got to continue my Little Fears game from RuchtCon! I love this game, and i've greatly enjoyed coming up with spooky stuff to put in it...though after i've been working on it, I find i'm a little edgy at night. I think I empathize a little too much with the children in the story. Anyway, If you've taken a look at the Gaming page recently, you've seen the novel of a session summary i've written up for it.

Still looking to start up Mouse Guard, but it probably won't happen until next month, due to scheduling.

Also, i'm working on finalizing (finally) the simple mechanics for the homebrew roleplaying system (which still needs a name) that i've been working on for the past...too long.

The 3rd Annual GitP Southeast Trogland meetup is fast approaching. We've had several people cancel on us unfortunately, but we're still expecting a decent crowd and fun times. That'll be 26th-28th of this month.

Played the zombie-killing board game Last Night On Earth for the first time on friday. Despite dying in the first 5 minutes, it was pretty fun. It seems pretty much straight-up die rolling players-vs-zombies though, as, apart from trying to get some 'hero cards' (w/ items or special actions) to play, there really isn't much else you can do - and strategy seems to generally boil down to "do we want to be together, or separate?" Answer: together.
Anyway, post-game thoughts: 1) The Sheriff sucks. Yes, i know he's the only character that gets to start with a gun. You know what? He sucks with that gun. He forgets to load it and, even if he has some, he can't hit the broad side of a zombie. 2) If you are the priest, do whatever you can to get the pitchfork. Yes, I know that doesn't make sense, but the priest can't use guns. I (somehow) killed like 8 zombies with the pitchfork. It felt ridiculous, though awesome. 3) In theory (statistically), it's much easier to kill a zombie with a gun than with something like the pitchfork. In practice: yeah right.

As for the Wii, i'm currently addicted to Excite Truck - a stunt-racing game Rucht gave us for christmas. It has a bunch of unlockable stuff, and it's capable of some pretty impressive crashes. Sheri's kind of good at this game, but mostly she just sucks really, really well.

Wanting to go ride our bikes, but we're waiting for Sheri's ankle (which she hurt a while back) to be (more) fully recovered.


Why is it...

...that i can mash the button on the jeep's clicker for five minutes and it will not unlock for anything, but i can then hand it to Sheri and she'll push the button once and, click, it works...???

Research is currently underway to determine if this is also related to the Pickle Jar Phenomenon.

And now, the news (in no particular order):

Getting new tires on the jeep tomorrow. Yay rah exciting, i know, but it needs done.

We played catch in our backyard today. This seems random, and it is, but Sheri had been saying for a couple years that we should get some ball gloves and baseball and play catch because it would be fun. We had a couple of walmart gift cards, and it seemed an amusing thing to spend them on.

I think the last of Hikaru's current computer problems has been isolated and (somewhat) solved. I love my computers... ...when they work.

Had a great time jamming at the Hippie Hut yesterday. I think we're still one band member short, but it's going pretty well.

Continuing to go over the Mouse Guard rules and trying to get one of the current D&D story arcs wrapped up so i can put it on the back burner for a while in the interest of something new.

Been looking over some camera lenses and reviews of them. I know i want a long telephoto, a super-wide-angle and a wide-aperture prime (probably 50mm), but i keep going back-and-forth regarding exactly which ones i'm after. Oh well, i've got time.

Had a going away party for Ginger last weekend - which she almost missed ;). I think we had a dozen people or so. I took a few pictures - but didn't get too many before my flash batteries died. I hadn't thought about bringing the camera until right before we left and at that point i didn't have time to charge them. Anyway, we had a bit of a cookout and then sat around and talked for a good while. Later we played a game of Apples to Apples, which is always fun. It was a good time. We're going to miss Ginger a lot. :(


Some Newish Music

Thursday April 2, 2009 at 1:01pm music Comments (0) »

I've been listening to a fair amount of new stuff lately. Note that that's "new" not so much in terms of release date (with the exception of the Hazards of Love, which just came out last week) but "new" meaning "i haven't really listened to it before....much". In fact, i've had some of it for a while... playlist just hadn't spun around it to it much until now. Anyway, in the interest of sharing some new music, here you go:

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
I'm still not sure exactly what i think of this album. Oh, I like it a *lot* - but it seems to play differently than a lot of other records. The Hazards of Love is a concept album. It's 17 tracks tell one continuous, flowing story. The lyrics are great, and in Colin's typical style. The music is impressive and interesting. The whole thing has a very even keel, and there aren't a lot of drastic musical changes in it. Despite the fact that sections of it are very soft acoustic and other parts are hard electric, it all blends together nicely. However, that tends to make it difficult to sort out the 'favorite' songs on the album. Basically, this album is quite interesting to really listen and pay attention to, or it's also good as a sort of background musical tableau... ...but you really can't take it as individual songs. It's also quite difficult to compare to their other albums, though I think Picaresque is still my favorite overall.
I also enjoy the fact that Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) is a guest vocalist on a few of the tracks. She opened for them when i saw them on the Crane Wife tour back in '07.

Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
I heard a little of this album in B&N over christmas, but i didn't get around to picking it up until now. This is a good one. It has a feel similar to his project with Calexico, In The Reins or the Woman King ep in terms of instrumentation - which i like a lot and these three albums go very nicely together. I particularly like "Wolves (The Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" and "The Devil Never Sleeps" but all of the songs have a nice feel to them.

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Not Animal
I *loved* their first album, The Dust of Retreat, so i had high hopes for this one. It didn't disappoint me. The style is very consistent with their first album. It keeps the same curious lyrical style and interesting instrumentation/arrangement while continuing to be creative and new. I still rate The Dust of Retreat slightly higher, but this one continues to grow on me more as I listen to it. Not sure I have any particularly favorite songs from it yet.

The Islands - Arm's Way
This is the followup to their first album, Return to the Sea. Arm's Way has a slightly different feel to it i think, but it still has that overall interesting abstractness to it that I liked so much about the first record. I think there are fewer songs on this album that really grabbed me when compared to Return to the Sea, but I do enjoy "Creeper", "Kids Don't Know Shit" and "I Feel Evil Creeping In" and the general sound of the rest of the album.

Fleet Foxes
Self-titled record. Just a mention in passing - I've only heard parts of this record, but the band's name intrigued me. Very mellow, very folkish. I think listening to it while driving would be a bad idea (event moreso than Iron & Wine). Actually, they remind me a lot of the Great Lake Swimmers with more instrumentation.

Alkaline Trio - Agony and Irony
"One of these things is not like the others..." Yeah, yeah. The rest of the albums on this list fit a sort of mellowish and/or indie theme... ...and then we go straight to goth punk/rock.
Agony and Irony follows Good Mourning and Crimson's progression to a smoother, less crunchy, yet still very hard rock sound. Some of this probably has to do with better producing, etc. I like Alkaline Trio's earlier stuff, but it definitely has a less polished sound - be that good or bad. Anyway, i've been listening to the them quite a bit lately, and to this record in particular. Overall, i wouldn't say it's any more spectacular than their previous releases, but, like previous records, it has a good overall sound and there are a few songs that I really like and latch on to. Namely, for this record those are "Calling All Skeletons" (their opener and single from this album - not particularly awesome, but i like the sound), "Over and Out" (which is depressing, but well composed), "Live Young, Die Fast" (which i greatly enjoy for the play on words there), and especially "Love Love, Kiss Kiss" (which is equal parts jealousy, denial and "quit whining, emo kid").


A Blog Resumption, Pt. I: General Updates

Sunday March 1, 2009 at 8:05pm trips, health issues, music, recording, just coffee Comments (0) »

So, it would seem that i've neglected the poor blog for a while. I've got a couple-few things to mention, but i'm gonna break 'em up into separate posts for thematic reasons.

Ok, so first off: returing from AR - since i was still there at last posting. I must say, i'm loving the macbook & having a computer with a battery life long enough to actually use some of the wifi hotspot around (it gives be 4.5 - 5 hours on a charge - not too shabby).

So, we stayed in AR for a little over a week so sheri could help her mom with her recovery from surgery. Last I heard she's doing alright regarding all that, but did find out she'll need chemo which is upsetting to her. Still, she's doing her best to get through all of this. Sheri's grandma is in the hospital again as of now, so health issues in the family seem to be on a disheartening rise. :( This year's been pretty arduous overall so far, unfortunately...

Partially due to the trip, but mostly due to a startling and irritating lack of inspiration (and not for lack of *hours* of trying), i didn't get very far on this year's RPM. I have most of two songs recorded - and only one of them is actually new (the second is an old song that i decided i'd finally put down). My closet soundbooth does a good job though and it was worth constructing - now if i could only come up with something to record. Erg. I'll have the new stuff put up in the music section after i've finished mastering the second song.

We went to the coffeehouse again a couple weeks back, which was fun. I got to take some pictures and play Wii on a giant projector screen. Good times.

We have VBS (for which i'm slated to do A/V stuff and photography) as well as a trip up to OH coming up this well as some other stuff to be mentioned in the following entry...

Anyway, I think that's about all for this one...


Weekly Penguin Report

Sunday February 1, 2009 at 3:08pm music, recording, gaming, friends, family, health, trips Comments (4) »

So today's the first day of february and RPM - sadly, i'm in Erwin for most of the day and can't do much in the way of recording. I *can* however, work on some preliminary stuff now that I have a macbook, which i'll be starting in a bit. 27 more days. Deep breath...

Had two great gaming sessions this weekend. Sadly, one of the games is losing a player. I will admit slightly shrinking that group is not all bad (6 players is a little past my 'ideal'), but we'll miss having Nick around for the next year. The other group had a good time with session #2 last night. I'm enjoying the progressing stories and interactions for both games immensely, each in its own way.

We got to see Bart & Sarah's baby Joe today - he's 9 days old. And quite adorable.

In more serious/troubling news, we discovered this week that a tumor Sheri's mom had removed was malignant and that she'll be having more surgery soon. We're beginning to make some initial preparations for a trip out to AR to be with her and the rest of the family for that, but we're not sure exactly when it will be as yet. We're also a little concerned about the weather, since they've had a really bad ice storm and a large part of the region has been declare a disaster area and is without power and a little short on other provisions.

I think that's everything on the list for now...


Recording Preparations & Llamabration '09

Monday January 26, 2009 at 11:40am music, recording, friends, birthdays, parties Comments (2) »

Only two noteworthy things to mention here this week. And they're completely unrelated.

The first is that last week I started making preparations for this year's RPM challenge. Basically, i've been setting up my "studio". In the interest of improving the "tightness" of my recorded tracks (particularly the vocals) i've decided to turn the office closet into a sort of recording booth. I've cleared it out completely and lined most of the inside of it with foam from a cheap mattress pad. I've also moved in my guitar amp and the mic/soundboard setup that will run into my macbook for recording.

I spent a good chunk of time friday night and saturday afternoon doing sound checks with various instruments and vocals. It's sounding pretty good. Now I need to spend the next week writing.


On saturday we had "The Party Man Was Not Meant To Plan". This was Tony's birthday party. He apparently requested a Cthulu theme. We had all kinds of impressive unspeakable snacks and played some Lovecraftian horror games - namely Arkham Horror and Cthulu 500 (though we did have several others to choose from). And, of course, no horror experience would truly be complete for our Llama without some pink elephants. Hehe. It was a good time. I took quite a few pictures, the best of which are in the Llamabration 09 gallery.


Switching Hats

Friday January 2, 2009 at 3:14pm rpm, music, hobbies, website Comments (0) »

As i've said before, my hobbies are too time-consuming to be able to do them all at once. I sort of have to go in shifts. My gaming hobby is pretty much 'always on' to a greater or lesser extent - probably because that's the only one that's not solely for my enjoyment - but my other hobbies (web/computer projects, photography and music) kind of have to fight for my free time. I've been on a photography kick for most of the last year, and I'm still loving it - but it's January, which means it's time to switch hats.

I talked a bit about RPM last year, and i'm gearing up to do it again this year. This time, however, i'm not going to try to actually write all of the stuff during February - i'm hoping to have most of that done beforehand. Hopefully this way i'll get more than 3 tracks down - my hope is to actually complete the project this time. Having started this today, i've got most of a song written. 9 more to go before Feb. 1st.

I have a faster (and portable!) computer for recording this year, which should let me get away with more simultaneous tracks/effects than i previously could - and I have plans to clear out the office closet to turn it into a sort of recording booth to keep the sound nice and tight. Last year was very rewarding and I'm really looking forward to giving this another go.

After this (depending on what my work schedule looks like, i.e. how burned out i am), i'm thinking about taking a couple of weeks to redesign/build this site again - i like this design, but i'm beginning to feel like it's time for a change.


I wish i was as cool as this guy

Tuesday December 30, 2008 at 5:49pm video games, random, music Comments (0) »

Windwaker - Unplugged

Seriously. This guy is indecently talented. Even if you don't know the game/theme, this video is nothing short of amazing.


Recovery, Jamming, Etc

Sunday August 31, 2008 at 5:46pm injuries, music, band, video games Comments (7) »

Well, i think i can say i'm able to walk again now. I don't need crutches, and I don't need the giant ski boot. It's still a bit sore from time to time (esp when i forget my anti-inflammatory like i did this morning) and i've been keeping it wrapped for good measure, but I think it's on the mend. Got a few more PT sessions to do, but they're helping and it's doing well.

Now more exciting stuff: we got to have a band practice yesterday! For our first time jamming together, i think we sounded pretty awesome, and it was a lot of fun. Man, I've missed that. I love my SG too - it's a great instrument. I don't play it enough because i usually play acoustic when i'm on my own. Hopefully this will become a regular(ish) thing. At this point, we're just gonna see where we can make this go. We're all wanting to write some great stuff to play together and hoping play some local shows when we're up to it. I'm excited about this. I really hope we can make it work.

Apart from that, we haven't done much. Oh, we did buy a Wii Points card at the mall on saturday & i downloaded Mario 3, which we can now play on our Wii. The Virtual Console thing is a pretty awesome idea.

Well - i've gotta run for now.


Rediscovered Music: part 139

Wednesday August 27, 2008 at 1:14pm music Comments (0) »

Every so often i find something old, buried in the depths of my playlist, that I haven't heard for a long time - and that, for whatever reason, I enjoy re-hearing immensely. For today's installment, the album by Skypark - Am I Pretty?. This is/was one of the few christian groups I actually enjoy.

Random selections:

Shelter. These lyrics fit so well with the crunchy, bluesy guitar riff over which they're laid:

Lies provide me no shelter
pain, no comfort
violence gives me no pleasure
shame, no treasure

i could never entertain the thought that things were better back in egypt...

Accomplishing quite a jump three tracks later, the goofy Starbucks Girl, which includes the narrative line:

i remember the first time i walked into starbucks, and i thought 'you know, this could be love - or maybe it's just really good coffee...''


Anyway, how's that for a random excerpt from my semi-conscious?

Tune in next time, kids...


Battle of the Bands

Friday August 15, 2008 at 12:03pm music, friends, bands, contests Comments (7) »
Battle of the Bands Image

So I went to the Battle of the Bands at Winged Deer Park last night to see Mahto's band, Ralvaden, and some others play. It was quite a fun and entertaining way to spend a thursday evening, I have to say. Hanging out with friends and listening to some live music. Does make me miss playing a band, though (I think i've mentioned that before?). Troy even made it out - hadn't seen him in *forever*.

I was pretty impressed with Ralvaden. I think they've improved quite a bit since I heard them last just a week ago. For their first show *ever*, they were awesome. They had written the two songs they played, which I thought were pretty well-composed for no longer than they've been at it. If they stick with it, they could be very good. In terms of technics, I don't think they were the most talented musicians playing, but they did have a good style and played well I thought. I could tell they've worked hard at it. I loved how Mahto handled the 'interview' that they did with the band after the performance - he really seemed to keep the mc off balance. It was quite amusing.

What kind of surprised me was that the whole event was sponsored by a a 'christian' organization, and there were some plugs for some upcoming 'christian' events, etc. Also, the surprise 'prize' for the winning band was being given the opportunity to open for one of the aforementioned events. A cynical part of me wants attribute the fact that the most overtly 'christian' bands took the top spots to these aspects, but the more benefit-of-the-doubt part of me decides (and hopes) that that was *probably* not the case. I think I would have picked the same 'winner' (based on the judge's proclaimed criteria), though I think I would have flipped places 2 & 3.

I really think that the David Nipper band (who placed 3rd) was really the most musically talented and professional of the lot - though The Verity (who took 1st) was a close second on that score (and a bit better on the stage presence). I suspect it was the fact that their stage presence was a lot more laid-back that cost them a higher slot... ...but, for a group that stylistically reminded me quite a bit of John Mayer, you can't really have the crazy jumping-around that some of the more hardcore/punk bands did. High-energy, high-volume music is easy to dance and jump around with, but mellow stuff takes a different, more subtle and more difficult, kind of expression. The guy was a good song-writer, and *all* of the musicians were very, very good. David, I thought, had good expression and presence, as did the drummer, but the rhythm and base players - for all their talent - just kinda stood there. Still, I would have given them 2nd above the repetitive thrashing (if energetic) of Free The Martyr (though, man, their guitarist could play *wicked* fast).

Pictures are posted in the Gallery. I was mainly there to photograph Ralvaden, but I tried to get a shot or two of everyone. The only one I missed was the Last Minute Band - who happened to play while I was eating dinner. Sadly, I was least impressed with them - probably because they only played cover songs (i'm big on originality)... ...but having only been together for less than a week, they were pretty good. Troy liked them.


A Real Post

Tuesday August 12, 2008 at 1:12pm lawn, church, photography, friends, swimming, gaming, music, blogs Comments (4) »

Or, you know, as real as I get.

Not too much has been going on here. Watching the grass grow. No, for real. Since i strained my calf muscle, I haven't mowed the yard - which is now really, really bad. My plan is to start tackling it later today. That's gonna be rough.

Sunday was our church picnic. I took a few great pictures of the munchkins on the playground. I'm still learning how to best shoot moving subjects - a lot of my shots are a little soft. Especially the ones of Claire. She doesn't stop moving. Anyway, it was fun. Oh, and I made lemon cheese bars for it (the first time by myself :)) which were a big hit with at least a few people. There were only two left.

Ginger, Sheri, Nick and I went out to the Elizabethton city pool on saturday. That was cool. Actually it was downright *cold*. There were only a dozen or so others in the water. I think i know why. After 5 or 10 minutes you got used to it though... ...if only because you were at that point numb and couldn't feel the cold. It was a good time though. The weather's been beautiful here: very mild for this time of year. Tomorrow's high is only 78 and the lows have been near-record.

On friday we had a fun gaming session. The party wrapped up what they had been doing in the dwarven ruin and have now traveled to the city of Madrid for more fun and mayhem. That game continues to be lots of fun.

Mahto's band had a practice on monday & I went to listen in. They sound pretty good for a highschool group. I think if they keep it together for a couple more years, they could be really good. They're actually playing at a 'Battle of the Bands' this thursday that we're gonna try to go to. That should be fun. Robb and I got to sit outside & play some guitar on monday as well. I really miss getting to play in a group. We talked for a while about trying to put something together at some point, but i think we'll need to find at least one more member.

Not too much else. Calendar's pretty blank for this month.


addendum: late last night i finally finished the graphic design for sheri's new blog - you can see it here.

Seventy-three men sailed up...

Monday August 11, 2008 at 11:56am music, thoughts, nostalgia Comments (0) »

...from the San Francisco Bay
Rolled off of their ship, and here's what they had to say
"We're callin' everyone to ride along to another shore
We can laugh our lives away and be free once more"

But no one heard them callin', no one came at all
'Cause they were too busy watchin' those old raindrops fall
As a storm was blowin' out on the peaceful sea
Seventy-three men sailed off to history...

So we were sitting in a Wendy's in Erwin yesterday having lunch before heading out to the camp where our church was having its annual picnic, and I couldn't help but notice the insanely random array of songs being played over their radio. Four decades in 10 minutes is pretty impressive. This was made most evident to me when they played an old 70's song I don't think i'd heard since i used to listen to tons of classic rock back in highschool. It was a song called "Ride, Captain, Ride" by Blues Image (which i have to admit i couldn't remember - and it was driving me crazy). I would say that i'm dating myself a bit here, but since i was about 6 months old when the song came out, it doesn't make me feel *too* old. ;-)

I also have to admit that I have something of a fascination with sailing ships and shipwrecks - and I almost always enjoy songs and stories about them (Even the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Hey, they can't all be as good as the Mariner's Revenge). I also like songs that have a sort of abstract, cautionary moral - particularly allusions to 'something better' that most of the 'people' in the song are missing (see also: lyrics to One Tin Soldier). So yeah, when I heard this old song that I hadn't heard in ages I thought, "hey, cool!".


I'm busy, but i'm not doing anything

Sunday July 27, 2008 at 3:12pm anniversary, gaming, work, friends, music, video games Comments (2) »

No, really. The past week+ has been fairly uneventful. Despite this, I still have several things to do around the house that I haven't made it to yet. I feel like I've been busy, but I also don't feel like i've done/accomplished much - how does that work?

Sheri & I did have our 4th anniversary on thursday. :-) That was a good day. We went for a walk around sycamore shoals (cause it was such a nice day), and then went out to dinner. We then went to look for a movie to watch (we were going to go see Wall-E, but our theatre wasn't showing it at a time that worked well) and bought disney's The Sword in the Stone. I love cartoons.

I guess in terms of my hobbies' time ratio, gaming has gotten the lion's share lately. I've put a significant chunk of time into continuing to develop my new(ish)/experiemental system/setting but i'm still not happy with my progress - it seems to be going much too slowly. Hopefully I'll get a little more momentum soon. We had a last-minute game session last night for my surviving d&d group, which was quite fun - though it took the party about 3x longer to get to where they did than I figured it would.

Apart from that, i've been working on some large projects for work - even some on my own time. There's one in particular i really want to get done, but I never get enough time to spend on it. It's going to make things a lot easier on several of us once I do though.

Got to hang out with Sam a little on friday. That was cool. Haven't seen him much since he's been at Berea. Got to hear a couple new songs of his - they're pretty cool (as was to be expected). I've been sadly neglecting my music stuff lately. I did play a little yesterday and discovered my fingers are way out of shape. My callouses are still there, but my index finger cramps on bar chords pretty quickly. I need to start compiling ideas for a new album for next year's album recording month too. If i can write most of it beforehand, i might have a prayer of actually finishing one.

Tony & I (and Sheri, to some extent) have been working through the obsessive-collecting madness that is Lego Star Wars. There are minikit pieces on some of the levels i swear don't exist: i've gone back and forth through some of these levels like 12 times and they're still nowhere to be found. It's a fun and funny little game though.

Anyway, that's pretty much it.


New Music Released

Friday June 20, 2008 at 12:08pm music, recording Comments (0) »

This is more of a surrendering than anything, sadly. I've gone ahead and added the three songs I recorded back in february to the Music page - By Moonlight, The Poor Man That I Am and Sleeping In The Willows. My original intent was to finish writing & recording the album they were supposed to be a part of, but it's now almost july and I've yet to do another single thing with it - nor do i feel particularly inspired/motivated to do so.

The original concept entitled Voyages of Ghostships was to be a collection of songs something like ghost stories - in a more concrete or abstract fashion from track to track. I still may expand/complete the project, but for now, I'm considering it somewhat dead in the water.


Some Things from Recent Days

Tuesday March 11, 2008 at 1:00am ally, gaming, food, movies, church, music, friends Comments (0) »

Just a few random excerpts from my life this last week:

Took Ally to the vet on wednesday; made an appointment to get her spayed. That's supposed to happen on the 24th. By all accounts, she's in good health and very cute. :)

Had a game on thursday; got to use a clever riddle in a situation that actually made sense in-game. Didn't kill anyone.

Ginger made us chicken fajitas on friday and we played some carcassonne and mario kart. Much fun; very tasty.

Saturday, Sheri and I talked some about some future possible home improvement projects, went and bought flower seeds, ate chili and made Nick watch The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged. It had been a long time since I'd seen it, and it made me laugh. :)

Yesterday was the start of DST. We lost an hour, but I'm glad that there's still plenty of daylight left after work. As the days warm and lengthen, I'll have more and more time to be able to shoot outside. Looking forward to this.

We also had the usual church stuff - which we were on time for because we remembered said DST stuff. I played Brave Saint Saturn's "Estrella" for the special - and I think it sounded really good. Don't think I've ever played a song kapo'd that high (7th!).

After Sheri's usual choir practice, we met up with Dennis (aka TheGreatJabu from the OotS forum). Robb & Edie came over as well and the group of us chatted about random stuff for most of the evening. After our Bored Meetings tonight, we went to Robb & Edie's house to hang out with Dennis (before he leaves town tomorrow) by playing some Killer Bunnies. Dennis seems to be a great guy, and meshes with out little group quite well in terms of personality. If his interview with ETSU's psych. doctorate program went well enough, he may even be moving to town. That would be pretty cool.

Anyway, that's about it for now.


End Feb, In Sum

Wednesday February 27, 2008 at 1:01pm sickness, music, recording, family, weather, movies Comments (1) »

Well, here we are.

Not too much to report. I think I'm finally over this round of the sickness. Still the occasional cough, but it's not much.

I think my getting sick was the death knell to my hopes of finishing my recording project on time - having now recovered, i'm feeling thoroughly uninspired. As it's obvious I'm not going to be able to write and record 7 songs in the next 48 hours, I think I'm going to shelve the project for a while and pick it up when my attitude concerning it improves a bit. On the upside, I did get 3 songs written and recorded (and ideas for approx 1.5 more) this month - even with all the games I had to run, the being sick, and all the other stuff - which is a greater per-day ratio than I think I've ever accomplished. I also went in a considerably different direction from normal with the writing (I'll talk about that more when I get around to finishing/posting it). All in all, I think the project was a huge success, even if I didn't pull off the formal objective. I think for next year, I'm going to try to have the writing done before the recording month - my writing output just isn't high enough to write 10 songs in a month - though I think I *could* accomplish the actual recording in that time.

My mom stopped through monday on her way to visit my sister in SC. We went out to dinner and had a good time chatting about whatever. She's supposed to stop over again thursday on her way back up to IN.

We've had a bit of real snow for the first time this year. It's starting to melt off now, but we had probably better than 1.5 inches this morning - which is about twice what we generally get.

We're supposed to host a Muppethon this saturday - a bunch of us are going to get together to watch some Muppet movies. Why? The question, my friends, is why not?


Checking In

Thursday February 14, 2008 at 12:34pm friends, gaming, music, recording, photography Comments (2) »

It's been about a week since my last blog post, so I guess it's that time again. Not too much interesting going on. Not to talk about anyway.

Last saturday Rucht, having decided that way too many of us gamers had never seen the movie Conan the Barbarian, had a bunch of us over for a viewing of the very old and cheesy film. Apparently we've been initiated now. We did have a good time playing with the plastic swords he got for the occasion, eating some tasty food, playing an epic game of munchkin and making another (failed) attempt at finishing a game of Arkham Horror. Oh, and because i'd seen that movie, I realized last night that James Earl Jones is also in Dr. Strangelove. Weird.

Sunday, I continued my longest currently-running campaign (18 sessions now, started a year ago last october). I love that game. It's so much different than most rp games.

I've been continuing to work on my RPM project. I'd hoped to be a bit further than I am, and it's beginning to look like I'm not going to finish. We've now reached the half-way point, and I've only got 2 songs down. I wrote about 1.5 more last night, but I haven't even started recording them yet. Perhaps tonight while sheri's at choir practice. I'm also discovering this project to be more a 'proof of concept' than an actual finished product. I'm way too picky to settle for what's coming out so far. Still, it's been most enlightening and enjoyable.

Also, I've posted to the gallery a few more pics i've taken recently. A couple more cute pictures of Ally (apparently one of my favorite subjects)(Ears!) and a few scenery pics - including a decent moon shot and a killer sunset sky. I'm looking forward to the weather warming up enough to actually go out to some different places to shoot.


RPM - Project Update

Thursday February 7, 2008 at 1:05am music, recording Comments (0) »

Feb 7th 2008

2 new songs written and mostly recorded. I like them both quite a bit. If I get nothing else out of my efforts this month, this has been well worth it.

I'm greatly enjoying this record - how the rest of it pans out will be interesting. Still not sure if I'm going to finish it "in time", but I'm still making a good go at it.


The Path of Disciplined Musical Enlightenment

Monday January 28, 2008 at 4:48pm music, recording Comments (0) »

So I saw this a few days ago on slashdot (and later on BoingBoing): The RPM Challenge

Summarized: Write and record a complete album (10 songs or 35 minutes) during the month of February just because you can.

But really, you should go read it.

The ideas behind this exercise in artistic creativity greatly intrigue me. I've long been the sort who most often pursued his creative interests only when it struck his fancy. This challenge asserts that a more disciplined, "whether you feel like it or not" approach can be very rewarding - and as it points out, you can't put that much effort into something and *not* get better.

I also appreciate the project's emphasis on encouraging people (anyone and everyone) to make music for the sake of making music. This strikes a chord (forgive the unintentional pun there) that resonates profoundly in a time when the recording industry and its money-making concerns are in the forefront of the music scene.

So yeah, I'm going to try this. Should be interesting. I've done their little sign-up thing, I've posted it for you all on my blog, I've made a commitment. Lets see what I can make happen. It's going to take some organization, some discipline and a lot of work. It doesn't have to be great (something i'm reminding myself), it just has to be the best i can do in a month.

Worst case, I've made an effort, have at least *something* to show for it, and almost certainly improved as a musician, songwriter and recording tech. Best case, I have a lot of fun and I come up with some truly interesting new material. Either way, I win.


On The Summer

Sunday August 12, 2007 at 6:05pm summer, gaming, music, recording, yard work, work, dogs Comments (2) »

...which is almost over. Doesn't seem like it should be this late already.

So the summer has been pretty good. Pretty busy in places. Schedules of people have tended to be less than predictable as well. I mean more than usual.

Not enough gaming went on this summer - perhaps the slowest on record since graduation - i'm not sure. We've got a couple few sessions together, but nothing major. I have been working on quite a bit of gaming stuff, however.

I've also been continuing work on my recording project again recently - which tends to go in spurts. Before this last week I hadn't touched it in at least a month, maybe more. I'm kinda stuck on the words to the song I'm working on atm.

I am further convinced we need a riding mower. That grass just gets too tall too fast for my poor little push mower. It's not so much the pushing I don't like, it's the must-stop-every-five-feet-to-keep-the-mower-from-dying that annoys me. I suppose I could merely upgrade the pushmower to something a bit more heavy duty, but i'm not sure what i'd need or how much of a help it would actually be.

Sheri starts her new job at Milligan this week. :-) That'll be great. She'll actually be able to do stuff in the evenings now instead of working 2-11pm (the 'no life' shift).

My job is going pretty well - though we're about to be very busy. Getting a couple few large projects, though I am happy the boss-man turned one of them down. It would have been quite a bit of money for the business, but it would have been very difficult and resource consuming. He decided it just wasn't worth it, and I agree.

Also on the subject of work, Andy's doing a great job with us. I've been really impressed with his graphic work. I mean, he went to school for that, but he seems to have a lot of innate talent as well.

We've also had a couple of cool family visits this summer. Speaking of, Jamie sent me an email a while back saying she might be able to come visit this month, but I haven't heard from her since... ...that would be cool. She even promised to give Ally a bath. heh.


Creative Lull

Tuesday June 26, 2007 at 9:45am music Comments (0) »

I've been playing my electric guitar a lot lately. I love the thing - it's so much nicer than my other worn-out electric. It looks great and plays better. Also, there's a certain satisfaction to turning my 200w amp up to about 3 and filling my house with sound.

Now I just wish I could think of something to play.

For a while now, I've been trying to come up with some new riffs or progressions, but I'm just not finding anything good enough. Sure, I've come up with some stuff that's alright, but nothing I can get really excited about.

I like playing stuff other people have written, but there's some deep-rooted compulsion to make up my own stuff - and I'm no longer satisfied with what I've been coming up with.

I need inspiration, or at least some new ideas.


An Epic Day

Sunday June 17, 2007 at 6:30pm music, church, friends, gitp, card games Comments (5) »

Yesterday started off early for a saturday. About 7:30am actually. I'm pretty sure that shouldn't be legal.

We got to our church in Erwin just before 9 so that we (the band) could practice a bit before everything started that afternoon. See, yesterday was our VBS 'kickoff', which we did by having a sort of all-afternoon party in the field behind the church. Among other activities, our band and another band played on the stage they had set up (which was actually a flat-bed semi trailer) and Toby grilled some hot dogs and made some other stuff.

It was pretty fun. Everyone said our band sounded great - though honestly I couldn't tell because the monitors pointed at me let me hear sam's guitar really well, and very little else. But I'll take their word(s) for it. It was pretty fun to be able to play some of our hymns a bit louder (and with more distortion :-D) than usual because it wasn't for a formal service. Not that that necessarily stops us.

We were pondering how good we'd probably be if we'd practiced more than about 6 times for this gig.

At about 6pm, the festivities wrapped up and we headed out. I was pretty tired. We played our 10-12 song set through about 4 times, and I can only sing and play for so long. Also my fingers were on the verge of serving a restraining order to my guitar strings.

I had heard a rumor that a forum friend of ours was going to be in town, so we gave Llama a call as we left. We ended up going to the home of one 'smellie_hippie' (and i got incontrovertible proof that he does exist!) to meet him and his wife and kids, and there we also met 'Ceika'. Other Playgrounders present included me, the Llama and the ArchivesNinja. We proceeded to hang out, eat ice cream and play Kubb and Killer Bunnies. Good times.

I had wanted to meet the hippie for some time, so that was cool, and I'd heard quite a bit about Ceika - especially with respect to her avatar-fu. It was really cool to get to meet people I'd seen online but never met in real life - especially when they turn out to be great people to hang out with. :-D

So by 11pm(ish) when this was all over, I was quite tired (though probably not as tired as Ceika who'd been up for about 24 hours and driven from Dallas, TX). Didn't take me any time at all to get to sleep.

Probably won't get to do anything as cool as any of that for a while...


Music and Recordings

Sunday May 27, 2007 at 5:37pm music, recording Comments (0) »

I've been working compiling a bunch of stuff I've recorded over the years. Eventually, there will some sort of music page on this site. I've even dug up some of the really old stuff my old band from IN recorded forever ago. Granted I don't *like* much of it anymore, but I'd feel a little wrong leaving it out...

In related news, I've gotten pretty darn good with Garageband and the little recording setup I've got here. I'm currently working on what will be a cohesive album. I'm about 8 songs into the recording process. I'll probably have that posted on the music page whenever I get done with it - but since I've been working on it since February, it will probably be quite a while before I'm done with it... ...and probably quite a while after that before i'm happy enough with it to call it 'done'.


Just some things

Tuesday May 1, 2007 at 4:19pm penguins, coffeehouse, music, gaming, lawn games, dentistry Comments (0) »

....been goin' on....

April 25th, for those of you who don't know, was World Penguin Day. :)

Friday was the last Just Coffee for the year. We had some fun hanging out and playing some music. I got to play with a marimba-like instrument and also I got to try playing violin. I can fake my way through 'Twinkle, Twinkle' - which I find pretty impressive since I'd never picked up the instrument before. I really want to learn now though.

We've got to game quite a bit lately. The Liimar (experimental campaign) is progressing rather nicely and continues to be lots of fun. I brought my currently running campaign to a close on saturday. That gives me a bit of a sense of accomplishment. I've been working on future games quite a bit as well.

We had a bit of a lawn-game party before the gaming commenced. It was quite fun, despite being delayed by the weather.

I went to the dentist for the first time in several years today. My teeth have several problems to fix, but it wasn't any worse than I expected - and in some ways, better. We get to start that mess next thursday...

I think that's about it for now...

Further updates as events warrant...


His mother was a chinese trapeze artist

Thursday April 5, 2007 at 9:58am music, concerts, long freakin post Comments (0) »

Last night, Sam, Nick, Larry and I went to Knoxville to see The Decemberists at the Tennessee Theatre.

That was easily the coolest thing I've ever seen. Period. Really.

The trip started out with some minor hiccups - like the exit we were supposed to take being closed to the point of non-existence and the fact that there's really not much in the way of restaurants (that we could find) in downtown Knoxville.

Once at the theatre, however, it was awesome. We were there plenty early and so stopped at the table at which they were selling stuff. I got a spiffy, blue Decemberists t-shirt - which was, in fact, a goal of mine. :)

The theatre itself is beautiful. Very ornately decorated and old-fashioned looking - yet with a modern twist of having some very cool color-changing cove lights which illuminated various alcoves and borders. It occurred to Sam and I that its style really seemed to go well with the band.

The opening act was My Brightest Diamond. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance - though I have to say, I think I prefer the energy and attitude she has on stage to their somewhat mellower recordings of the same songs.

At about 9, the Decemberists came on stage. As I said before, their show was amazing. Every member of the band played at least two different instruments - and most played three or more. Its one thing for a band to have dramatic instrumentation on their recordings - it's another thing to watch them do it all in a live show. I have an even greater appreciation for their musical talent. Their live performance easily sounds just as good as their albums, if not better.

They played mostly songs from Picaresque and The Crane Wife - with a few others thrown in. They brought out the singer from My Brightest Diamond to sing with them on Yankee Bayonet (one of my favorite songs of theirs). I always think it's cool when artists collaborate like that.

The most notable song I suppose was the Mariner's Revenge - which they played as an encore. They had wrapped up their performance and left the stage but, at our continued prompting, returned for one last song.

For those of you who don't know the song, it tells the story of a boy who goes off in search of a man who betrayed his mother some years earlier. He eventually catches up with him on the high seas, only for all of them to be swallowed by a whale.

Colin (the lead singer) told us that we had to supply the sound effects of a multitude of people being swallowed by a whale - i.e., screaming - at the appropriate time when his bandmate directed us. Once that instruction was given, they began playing the song - which they essentially goofed-off their way through, but yet somehow played it flawlessly. I would do a poor job describing exactly how their stage antics went for this one, but I'll hit a couple of points to give you a hint:

The drummer was only playing a floor tom - which scooted across the stage in a random direction each time he hit it. At one point in the song where there was no drum line, he actually picked up the tom and put it over the head of the bass player, who continued playing the large stand-up bass he was holding. When the drummer took it off, the bass player pulled the bow out of the sheath on the bass and mimed stabbing him with it.

At a particular bridge in the song, the entire band sort of hopped side to side while playing the song in a sort of waltz time. It looked hilarious, yet fit the song and the band wonderfully.

At the point in the song where the characters are swallowed by the whale, we were directed to scream as a giant costumed whale plodded out onto the stage (didn't see this one coming...), engaged in a brief battle with the band members (most of whom continued to play the song while the lead guitar player pantomimed beating it with his guitar). The whale ate all the band members, who collapsed on the stage as the lights when out at the musical break at that point in the song.

The lights slowly returned as they played the rest of the song, at the end of which is a particular repetition of a musical phrase at faster and faster tempos - which they took to extremes not on the recorded version. The accordian player was quite tired at the end of that one.

I know why they played that song last: Nothing follows that.

I would highly recommend their show to anyone who is even passively amused by their particular style. They did a fantastic job. If/when they come back to Knoxville, I will be going if it's at all possible.


It's been a good day

Tuesday March 6, 2007 at 9:27pm golf, music, reflection Comments (0) »

It's days like today when I kind of feel like a lucky punk.

Today Joe and I went out and played golf for the first time this year. (My mom is jealous - she really wants to play.) It was great fun. It was about 55 degrees, sunny and there was no one else on the course.
Ok, there were a couple other people on the course. We did see someone on hole 8 when we were coming off the 4th green. Still, it was nearly completely vacant. This enabled us to take a somewhat relaxed pace and not worry about getting in other people's way. The grass on the fairways and greens is still a bit hard, but it was a great time. I par'd two holes! I'm not sure if I've done that before...

In other news, I got a call from Sam a while ago saying that tickets for the Decemberists' show in Knoxville on the 4th of April were being ordered for me, Sam, Larry and Nick. I'm really excited about this. I've never got to go to an real concert for a band I've actually wanted to see before. Not really, anyway.

Not that any of this stuff is important - and that's kind of the point. It's one thing to have big important things go your way and be happy about it (and I've had my share of those too), but it's another thing to be able to be quite excited and happy about little things that would seem stupid and trivial if the more important things weren't there.

Seems the big important things in my life are, for the moment, going well. Let me point out that I am immeasurably thankful for this. It's just 'icing on the cake' (so to speak) that important things go well enough for me that I can be excited about this stuff.


Random News

Saturday January 20, 2007 at 11:04am penguins, holidays, economy, gaming, music Comments (1) »

Just so you all know, today is Penguin Awareness Day. This was *not* going unmentioned.

In other news, gas prices have finally dropped below $2 here in east TN. As per my previous agreement with the fuel companies, I will now cease complaining about the high price of gasoline until it is once again above $2.

Congrats to one Tony "Llama" for having successfully conquered Ape Escape 3 earlier this week. Catching 142 monkeys is no small task.

Game night at the coffeehouse last night was fun - but that was the most drawn-out game of Shadows over Camelot I've ever not finished. One of the guys that was playing with us heard us talking and said we should have a d&d night at the coffeehouse. This amuses me.

Lastly, I've been playing my new guitar a lot. My fingers aren't used to it, but it's been lots of fun. I think I need to retire my old effects pedal though. If I have enough money relatively soon I think I'll by a Boss EQ pedal so I can ditch the thing.


The Standard Report

Sunday January 14, 2007 at 12:16am friends, family, coffeehouse, music Comments (0) »

Well, it's been a pretty good week since the last blog entry.

Tuesday evening I went out to dinner with some friends, and then i returned to the Igloo where myself and some more friends (two of whom i believe to be parents by now) and my sister (who was passing through and stopped over for the night) all played Apples to Apples until about 10:30. Fun times.

Wednesday and thursday were pretty 'uneventful', though I have been wrapping up some pretty exciting work-related projects.

Fridays are always good. Went out to dinner again (same restaurant even) and then to the coffeehouse where some of us played Apples to Apples again. Seems this was the week for Texas Roadhouse and adjective/noun games.

Today I went and spent my christmas money. I'd been wanting a new electric guitar for a long time (ever since i started playing with the praise band at church) and today I went and spent quite a while playing several of them. I kept coming back to one of them though - a Gibson SG. Plays really nice. The guys at Morrell's were really cool too: Since I didn't want the gig bag (soft case) that came with the guitar, they kept it and took the price off the hardshell case that I wanted. Ended up getting the case for about half price. :) I've had the guitar plugged into Hikaru here for a bit. Looking forward to plugging it into my amp tomorrow. I'll probably put a pic of it up at some point.

This evening we had ging and llama over for chili and card games. Much fun was had - as always.


Alarming Audio

Wednesday October 4, 2006 at 11:25am music Comments (2) »

It is a very odd thing to wake up in the morning to Boy Sets Fire overlaid with classical radio.


Loud. Angry. Wet.

Monday September 4, 2006 at 11:02pm yard work, music Comments (0) »

Push-mowing the yard in the rain while listening to Rage Against The Machine is an interesting experience.


Acoustic Toaster

Wednesday August 16, 2006 at 2:54pm friends, music, funny Comments (0) »

Sam & I had lunch at Shlotzky's today, and then went over to the Acoustic Coffeehouse to play some guitar out on their patio and pen in a date for us to play there.

Upon returning to Shlotzky's that we might go our own ways (we carpooled to the AC), we saw the following in the parking lot:

A silver Honda Element - quite possibly the square-est car ever designed - with a bumper sticker that read: 'You just got passed by a toaster'.


'Bout time

Monday July 17, 2006 at 11:23am friends, baseball, music Comments (0) »

Yeah, i haven't been hitting the blog much these last few weeks. I could probably get away with blaming it on having too much to do with the house and work and all, but that probably wouldn't be that accurate. I have discovered that merely having more stuff to do doesn't make you any busier than you would otherwise be unless you actually do some of it.

I've also realized i've been slacking off on this site - I haven't even put our currently running summer d&d game on the site at all.

So last week was pretty good. On wednesday we went to a local minor league baseball game. The home team lost (not that i could be called a 'fan' or anything), but it was fun to watch and hang out with some friends for an evening.

Yesterday we had band practice. It was a lot of fun and the songs we're planning on playing for next time are sounding pretty solid, though i couldn't talk them into playing 'Crooked Deep Down' for the special. Something about 'offending people'. Pfft.

More if i think of it.


I Slack, Therefore, I Am

Monday February 20, 2006 at 8:53am coffeehouse, gaming, video games, music Comments (0) »

...and here i was just getting on to Sam for shirking his 'net duties.

So it's been a minute or two since i've blogged. Maybe it's because i have nothing to say.

Or maybe it's because my life is so full and exciting i haven't had time to blog in the last week and a half.

Yeah, i wasn't buying that either.

The last week+ has been good though. Nothing incredibly blog-worthy, but good.

We didn't go to the coffeehouse this last week (*gasp*). I think we were all kinda burned out on it - though i probably wouldn't have realized it if ginger hadn't said something. We did have a good time going out to Cootie Brown's and wandering about JC before deciding we were all too tired to stay up much past 10:30.

Saturday we had a good game. My group seems to be a steady(ish) 6 players again. This makes me happy. It had shrunk uncomfortably low there for a while. I really like this hobby, so much so that i've ordered 6 more books. I'm fairly sure i'm not obsessed with it, but i do spend a good amount of time working on game-related ideas and projects (this website is about 50% game related) and i really like the idea that i can run a game that my friends enjoy and look forward to. Over all, i think it's the social aspect of the game that i like most.

After the game, some of us went out for pizza and then played some Mario Party 2. Fun times. ...though, if i'd have won half of the mini-games i won in our practice run-throughs, i'd have kicked much more butt.

Yesterday (Sunday) we spent in Erwin, as usual. Got to have some band practice. Looks like our praise band has acquired a bass player, which frees me up to play guitar and sing. I did enjoy playing bass though...


Dread Pirate Shoe

Monday February 6, 2006 at 11:57am music, friends, little kids, football, gaming, computers Comments (0) »

It was a pretty good weekend - if a little short.

Saturday we had a good game. Fun times & mayhem.

Yesterday (Sunday) our praise band led worship. So far all direct comments to us - and we've had quite a few - have been exceptionally positive, though there are a couple people we suspect weren't too thrilled (like the one who tried to cancel church due to the weather). Still, it was cool, and we all know there's just no pleasing some people.

Yesterday afternoon, Sheri & I were invited over to our minister's house for the afternoon. They were having the youth and a bunch of people over that evening anyway, and it's always cold in the church after everyone leaves. So we hung out, played with their kids and talked with them.

I actually found out that Joel, our minister, used to play a little d&d back in the 80's, when everyone thought it was satanic (hehe). He said he never really got too into it (he said the math was his real problem. thac0 and all.), but he had some friends who really liked to play so he joined in. He said he was always the guy who got killed first - and that he always had trouble figuring out whether he was dead.

Later that evening, a bunch of people, including but not limited to the youth group, came over to their house to watch some football game (hehe). Joel was asking everyone who they wanted to win. I told him i voted for the Seahawks because they had the cooler name. I was not the only one to use such pointless forumlas to determine preference either.

I didn't pay much attention to the game anyway as me, Sam and a couple others were playing Dread Pirate - and we actually finished a game. I'd played the game several times before, but we'd never finished one. Despite my bad luck at the beginning, I actually ended up winning. Not only that, but I successfully took the Dread Pirate flag from the current holder (with the help of +5 (!) from cards i had) and managed to hold it until the end of the game, through at least 4 attacks. Truly, it was my finest hour on the high seas. okimdone.

After that, we returned here to the Rabbit Hole where i fixed the first hardware problem i've had with this computer : a loud, strange noise it was making, which turned out to be the video card's fan that had become incredibly dusty (despide the fact that it sits in the case upside down) and was making a crap load of noise.


Impending Volume And Random Encounters

Monday January 30, 2006 at 10:37am church, music, random encounters Comments (1) »

Last night was our area churches' 'Fifth Sunday Sing'. Everytime there's a 5th sunday, they all get together and sing to each other. Sometimes theres some goods ones, sometimes it's a joyful noise.

Anyway, some people decided that our newly-formed praise band should lead some congregational singing. This was a sort of pre-cursor to us leading sunday morning worship next week. As far as i could tell, it went over very well.

Quite possibly the coolest thing, however, was this:

(Preface: One idea behind the hatching of the praise band was that it might bring in some more people. Our church is rather small and the average age is probably 50 or so.)

While mark was unloading his drums, a guy saw him and pulled up outside the church to ask him what was going on. Apparently he had just moved up here from the Myrtle Beach area where he attended a church that had a band. Mark told him that we were just getting started, and that our first actual church appearance was tonight. The man thanked him, and said that he would be back that evening. And he was. We talked with him for a while afterwards. He said he really thought it was cool and that he was going to come next sunday as well.

Now, i'm not all about the idea behind christianity being getting people in your building on sundays, nor do i think finding a service you 'like' is the most important thing, but i thought this particular incident was pretty cool.


Songwriter's Block

Friday January 20, 2006 at 12:39am music, funny Comments (0) »

And no, i'm not talking about wanting to write a song and not being able to think of anything.

I'm talking about being able to remember a song that i've written.

Sam & I played some of my stuff at a little coffeehouse this evening and, for the second time he was able to tell me how my own song went better than I could.

So i'm trying to figure this out: how come i always forget my songs when i go to play them? I'm pretty sure it's not nerves, because i wasn't nervous. I'm pretty sure i'm not old enough to be senile. I'm pretty sure i haven't put any of my songs in a pensive. So what then?

And why isn't turnabout fair play? I played with him on a couple of his songs, and there's at least 3 chords in one of them that i still don't know.


Bass Playing Goodness

Friday January 6, 2006 at 11:54am music Comments (1) »

A few months a few people in the church decided we should start a praise band with some of our resident musicians. We had our first couple of practices this week.

Thus far, we have Mark (drummer), Sam (guitar/vocalist) and James (djembe). Then there's me. I insisted to Mark that we have a bass player. At first we thought a friend of Sam's (Ben (aka Leroy)(it's the hair)) was going to come and play bass for us, but his schedule has proved to be a formidable foe. With him out, it was up to me. I enjoy playing bass with a band, so i wasn't at all bothered by this. I was (and am, really) willing to procure a bass for this project, but it turned out that Mark had one that he brought for me to play. It's pretty nice, though it was having some technical difficulties.

I gotta say, i miss playing in a band. We had a lot of fun. I have discovered i'm not very good at playing bass and singing harmony. yet anyway. Mark let me take the thing home with me, so i've got it to practice.

In theory, we're supposed to lead worship on Feb. 5th. This...this will be interesting. Mostly because it will be about 20-50db louder than the usual service. I fully expect at least 1/3 of the congregation to complain about this.


The usual?

Monday December 12, 2005 at 11:45am birthdays, coffeehouse, church, music Comments (2) »

As was mentioned on the forums, last thursday was Sheri's birthday. We had a little party complete with cupcakes and yoshi. I got her a d&d player's handbook. I would say i'm a dork, but it seems that that's the present she's been most excited about.

Friday was coffeehouse night, but Sheri went caroling with some other ladies at church, so i spent most of the evening with Ginger and Tony. Ginger came over to the Rabbit Hole after work, where we proceeded to be not at all exciting for a couple of hours as i worked on some stuff, she played AOE and we talked about nothing terribly important for a while. From there we proceeded to the Lair where we met Llama. I won't say that made us more exciting necessarily, but it certainly made us more random. The three of us went out for dinner and discussed such deep questions as why ginger is unable to eat chicken nuggets while in our company (and if we could get a federal grant to research this), and how one would operate a usb toaster with passing references to our degree of normality.

On Saturday Sheri's choir had a rehearsal for their christmas program and then we came back here to game. It was great fun, though some of us are a little concerned that the pizza delivery guy may report us for conspiracy to commit arsony. Don't ask.

Sunday was the usual "stay in erwin day". This week, it was even more "stay in erwin day", since it was the 3rd of 4 possible trips to erwin within 4 days. We went to Wendy's for lunch and it was freezing because their heater had been broken for 3 days. I was amused to notice the marquee on their sign said "stay warm with a chili".

Sunday night was the Carol Sing at our church for which Sheri, Sam and I played Christmas Carols of the Rising Sun. We had quite a few compliments on it. Joel gave me a look that i interpreted to say "I really shouldn't admit that i enjoyed that, but i enjoyed that".

If you ask me, a great weekend.


Return of the Blogger

Sunday November 6, 2005 at 11:41pm website, coffeehouse, gaming, music Comments (2) »

It may seem like i have been neglecting the site in general and my blog specifically. The first part is completely untrue, but sadly the second is mostly factual.

Over the last several weeks, i've been rebuilding my website from scratch, fixing some things i didn't like, and adding some features i'd always wanted to. After about a week and a half of labor, version 4.0 is up and running. I'm really happy with this new site and how it works - though it may take a little getting used to for some.

Aside from the web development (for work and for fun), the last couple of weeks have had some coolness in them that i haven't got around to talking about until now.

As you've probably already seen, there are now pictures up from the costume party. Yeah. Dressing up as a giant penguin is great fun. I think i was the entertainment for the the very least, i had the goofiest costume.

We finally started the second d&d campaign with Eric & Cory last week. I thought it went pretty well. I'm still not sure how much Cory wants to play, but she didn't seem actively bored and seemed to at least enjoy goofing off with us.

Last week we had an open mic at the coffeehouse again. I left my tuner on the piano again. It was a lot of fun though. Sam & I played one of my songs together - mostly because he insisted i play it, and i insisted that i wasn't going to unless he played it with me. I also played a new song i had written called "I think you're reading too much into this." I was very happy with how it sounded, though it's a sort of intense song, and playing it about exhausted me. Anyone who says singing and playing guitar isn't physically exertive has never done it.

also, my parents came down to visit this last weekend. That was cool, i hadn't got to see them since july. It was a short visit, but it was nice.


we can't all be good bloggers

Tuesday September 6, 2005 at 11:51pm music, health, books Comments (0) »

i find that much of the time, i just don't have anything important to say - not that if i DID have something important to say this would be an ideal place for it...

for the last few weeks or so, i've had the intense urge to write a new song, but everytime i sit down to work on one, i can't come up with anything. This is a relatively rare instance of motivation outweighing inspiration - usually the opposite is more true.

i've also been kinda sick for the last few days. I'm taking a medicine that says i should 'avoid excessive or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or artificial (?) sunlight'. I'm worried that it's trying to make me into a vampire or something. I wonder if that's a side effect of the medication too...

since i've been sick i've finally finished reading 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' - a very ironic book read very ironically since i only seem to find the time to read completely enjoyable books when in situations in which i cannot completely enjoy them. Douglas Adams would be proud.


some downtime, some pictures, some songs, some fun

Thursday August 4, 2005 at 12:40pm pictures, music Comments (3) »

well, since the return from our great expidition out west (where west == "arkansas"), not much has happened here 'cept the usual. For anyone who hasn't seen them, i posted some pictures of the trip here - there's even one of the freezer full of penguins i found when i got back.

i've written and posted a few new songs lately, which makes me feel a bit better about my muscianhood...until recently i hadn't really written much in the last year or so. i've been telling sheri i want to get an electronic drum well as some other recording equipment so i can start recording my stuff - which has been a dream of mine for about the last 7 years or so. someday i'll pull this off.

sheri has officially switched shifts and now works 7-3...which means she's around in the evenings...which is nice. It's much less disturbingly quiet here now.


blogging along

Monday April 25, 2005 at 11:21am coffeehouse, weather, gaming, music Comments (0) »

well, aside from the death of penpen, not much is new. (new computer parts on the way! woo-hoo!)

the coffeehouse on friday was pretty cool, though not many people showed up.

saturday was spent doing laundry and wandering around walmart & lowes looking for shelves. (not my idea, believe me)

sunday it freakin' SNOWED. what was who thinking? ...though, at the moment, the weather does seem to be back somewhere close to normal for this time of year....

sheri, ginger, tony & i played some ninja burger last night. that was fun. i'm not going to be surprised if 'i should have recognized your stylish ninja pacifier' shows up on the site somewhere..., somewhere else...

looking forward to some gaming this weekend...

songs i've learned to play this week:
simon & garfunkel - "america"
cream - "white room"



Tuesday April 12, 2005 at 11:25pm coffeehouse, gaming, music Comments (1) »

so things have been pretty cool recently.

we went to the coffeehouse @ watauga on friday and got to see some slides about a trip around south america. there were penguins! this made me happy inside.

on saturday we got to have a little lan party, which was lots of fun... ...and ginger cooked some thai for us too. (thanks ginger :))

the weather has also been really nice lately (until today, anyway) and we've had a couple few picnics over by the creek at milligan - this is a nice thing about living across the street.

we also got a bocce set, which we've been enjoying.

i've also been working on version 2.0 of this website, but this comes as no surprise since tony has already pointed out its inevitability.

other than that, it's been pretty much the same stuff.

songs i've learned to play this week:
caedmon's call "i just don't want coffee"
eli "the lumber song"
pink floyd "wish you were here"

songs i wrote this week:
"two questions"