Sunday, June 28, 2009

More from the lazy gardener

I figure my 18 square feet of garden in the back yard is progressing pretty well. I've decided to see what happens if I fix it up for the cucumbers to grow vertically by stringing up some line similar to what I've done for the tomatoes. Those that know me can appreciate my enduring laziness - especially my reluctance to bend over unless I really have to - so I consider this laziness as the root cause of innovation in this case. Gardens above the ground can only be a good thing.

My wife went and got some more posts from Lowes and from there we'll just see what happens. The cucumbers might take over, but I figure I'll have more tomatoes than can possibly be eaten, so I'm just curious.

Here's some pics with the "trellis" type setup.

Also - most of my tomatoes are still green, but I do have the first red one of the year that I snuck a shot of, along with pics of some of the cucumbers which are close to being ready to be eaten.

Most of the tomatoes are still like this though:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sympathy for Mark Sanford

I'm not really sure what compelled me to look into the news about Mark Sanford. I guess it started when my wife, a romance author, thought she might be interviewed for a news story regarding the released love letters between South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his Argentine mistress and longtime friend, Maria. Apparently some were finding the letters poetic.

So as my wife ran to McDonalds to get us supper (a nutritious Double Cheeseburger, fries, and a pie) I looked up what the fuss was about. I cared little about predictable political posturing and punditry all around and was happy to find just the link to the email communications that were released to the press.

... and surprisingly I found sympathy for the governor. Yes he'll be vilified, and yes there are lots of people he's hurt. But underneath this story is something tragic but also fundamental and "real." I encourage those who are interested to read the letters first to form your own impression, but here's my take:

I could be reading too much into the small amount of information in the letters, but I see a man who's burnt-out to the core - a guy on the edge who's worked very hard all his life to find at the end all his efforts left him disillusioned and empty. Taking a break on his farm, he speaks of how it's nice to run his tractor with "No phones ringing and tangible evidence of a day’s labors." I could see how a long career in politics could make you feel like you've become a cog in a vast machine that slowly overtakes you. My impression from a small amount of reading is that his spirit was broken, and he'd moved into that place of just going through the motions. I think many of us may find ourselves every once in a while - sometimes it's worse than others. And sometimes it seems harder to find a way out than others - and his life is far more complicated than most.

Here are some key passages:

I think there are indications in the letters that his first impulse was to end things as soon as they started - see an early email from Maria:

Maria: "although I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to meet again this has been the best that has happened to me in a long time"

I think this quote later on gives additional insight of where the governor was at and how life had just beaten him down:
Sanford: "I have been specializing in staying focused on decisions and actions of the head for a long time now — and you have my heart. .(snip text) ... while I did not need love fifteen years ago — as the battle scars of life and aging and politics have worn on this has become a real need of mine."

Sanford: "we are in a hopelessly — or as you put it impossible — or how about combine and simply say hopelessly impossible situation of love. How in the world this lightening [sic] strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure.... I have crossed lines I would have never imagined. I wish I could wish it away, but this soul-mate feel I alluded too is real"

In all, I just feel sorry for the guy and all parties involved. He was living an unsustainable life, couldn't find a way out, and something had to give. Unfortunately Sanford's breaking point was reached on a national and international stage with far more stone throwing than most of us (thankfully) will ever experience. Some will dismiss this as a cop-out but I think Maria's comment sums it up well: "Sometimes you don’t choose things, they just happen"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Graph of the Day: Healthcare Spending

Graph of the day.

Per capita health care spending vs. average life expectancy.

Now you know. The U.S. tends to spend about twice as much on healthcare as the average country shown, and we don't live as long.

This one little fact made my day and is worth more than all the blathering about healthcare ideologies I've heard in a long time.

Tips to Marginal Revolution for the link.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Steve Morse guitar solo

Steve Morse is an incredible songwriter and guitarist. I'm not even going to qualify how good he is. When I was growing up, and after going through my guitar hero stages including Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Nuno Bettencort, and maybe a few others I came upon Steve Morse and just latched on.

Comparing musicians is always difficult, but there's such an intense musicality and originality in what Morse does that separates him from the others. He does it with quality songwriting, accessible melodies, hooks, all within what to me seems almost impossible technique. While he can shred, he's different in that he doesn't use raw energy to drive his playing, but he still brings a ton of heart - it's just a different vibe - not the knock-your-head-off-with-overpowering-screaming-solos vibe, but a more finessed WOW-that-is-the-coolest-thing-ever vibe. He's considerably more refined in comparison, meticulous without being cold, and has headed far down the road less traveled in his playing. And this does nothing to take away from the other players mentioned above - but they do a different thing.

Here's a video I found of Steve Morse on YouTube. Perhaps my favorite guitarist. While the sound quality isn't the best, I found this to be highly entertaining and a good sample of what Steve Morse albums sound like. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Awesome Milky Way photo

Check out this Milky Way photo from the "Astronomy Pic of the Day" Website. This one will probably end up as a poster. Very cool.

Also, while I'm at it, I thought this photo of this rare horizontal rainbow was very cool. I've never heard or seen one of these. Read the description below the image for an explanation for how they form.

Iran and a Martin Luther King Jr. speech

The post-election turmoil in Iran has been on my mind. While I haven't been singularly focused on it, it keeps occupying my thoughts - making me wonder why it's so hard for us all just to get along and live out our lives.

I've read on several occasions that protesters in many countries look back at speeches by Martin Luther King Jr for inspiration, so I pulled up one of his sermons this morning on the internet.

I found this one about loving your enemies.

At the core of King's argument is the ability to abstract and see pieces of ourselves within our enemies - seeing that we operate within systems, cultures, frameworks that drive much of our behavior.

Some key points in his speech:
See our own faults. "How is it that you see the splinter in your brother's eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?"

"And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals."

Here he also quotes Goethe: "There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue."

"Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system."

Much of what he talks about here applies in Iran today.

Despite my current sympathies for change in Iran, in different circumstances I could easily find myself shooting tier gas, wielding a baton, and beating protesters in the streets.

Similarly, I could likely find myself protesting in the streets.

Change my circumstance, and you likely change me and my reactions.

It's hard to put myself in their shoes over there - but after reading King's speech I think I have better clarity.

And that speaks to King's point (one of many in his sermon) that we need to find and encourage systems that allows and encourages the good in people to be expressed. It does make a difference in how we look at a situation when we say "it's a bad system" vs. "those people are bad." I think that distinction makes a huge difference in how you think about solutions also.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ay Oh - probably final update

I just put up what may be a final version of the tune. Main changes from previous versions include
- quite a bit of drum edits - lots of new beats in different sections that change the mood considerably
- delay on harmonics
- cut out 16 bars early in the song to shorten it and reduce repetitiveness
- maybe a tad of EQ on some tracks
- removed some acoustic guitar parts that just weren't working for me.
- thinned out the song in a place or two that had multiple layers of the same thing going on.

Links are the same as previous:
Click HERE to hear the song.
If you want to download the MP3 click HERE.

On to something else before I burn out on this one. Getting close.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ay Oh - revised mix on new song

Made some revisions to the "Ay Oh" song this weekend. Getting closer to final. I APPRECIATE YOUR COMMENTS IF YOU LISTEN - IT HELPS ME ADJUST THE MIX. :D
- Added a couple brand new parts to hopefully better address the repetitiveness comments. Let me know if you still feel it's too repetitive. It is loop based, but I don't want it to feel overly repetitive.
- Added what I think is a pretty cool section starting at about 3:40. Kindof a cool funk groove thing going for a while and then
- breaks into an Allman brothers inspired 4 guitar harmony thing after that. I was grinning ear-to-ear when I started hearing this part.
- rerecorded acoustic guitars and added some parts.
- changed mp3 converter to get much better conversion. I'm not real good with my software, but I just found out Acid would render to mp3 and it sound considerably better now imho.
- haven't messed with any variations on drums yet, but I'm hearing some hand claps that might be some of final touches.
- also hearing some harmonized vox and a vocal variation in one part, but I'm not a good singer so this will be harder for me.

Here are song links from Unsigned Band Web to the newly posted mp3:
Click HERE to hear the song.
If you want to download the MP3 click HERE.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dreams - Acoustic version - Sammy Hagar

"Dreams" is one of my favorite Van Halen songs, and here's an acoustic performance by Sammy Hagar that I thought was a very cool take on the song. I've never heard this song done acoustically before.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My tiny little garden

Just wanted to post a few picks of my tiny little garden. CLICK THE PICS FOR A LARGER IMAGE.

Tiny garden plot in back yard. Essentially just some Roma tomotoes and cucumbers. The broccoli and cauliflower seeds didn't come up. I put some potato slices out there just the other day to see if they come up:

Here's a pic of the tomato beside the house:

All of the tomatoes have little green fruits on them right now similar to this:

While I was at it I took a few other pics of other stuff around the house:



Trumpeter vine

And a bee making a stop at the grocery store!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Digging for worms

Here's an interesting VIDEO on how to "dig" for fishing worms. Never heard of this. I encourage the video as you can hear the sound it makes.

Apparently the vibrations in the ground are interpreted by the worms as a mole coming to try and eat them.... So the worms quickly come to the surface of the ground. Here's a news article if you prefer to read it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Planetary Orbits not stable over longer time frames

Here's a very interesting story regarding a scientific paper projecting the odds of planetary orbit disruption in our solar system. This is the kind of stuff you don't learn in the school books and is why I regularly check links to science articles. Interesting stuff.

Appararently over long time periods the planetary orbits as we currently know them are not stable, and there are are small percentage chances that some current planets may wobble/evolve into orbits that cross the orbits of other planets - creating the likelihood of planetary collisions within our solar system. Apparently this is the most complex modeling of planetary orbits over long periods attempted.

From the article:

Our solar system has a potentially violent future. New computer simulations reveal a slight chance that a disruption of planetary orbits could lead to a collision of Earth with Mercury, Mars or Venus in the next few billion years.

Click HERE for the full story

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More guitar for beginners - 6 chords in the Ay Oh song

Based on web searches, it looks like one of the most popular posts I've put up the one for good guitar songs for beginners from a while back.

In the spirit of learning to play guitar I wanted to post the chords used in the song I worked on over last weekend and posted in the previous post.

There are only 6 common chords for this entire song: Em, D, C, Am7, G and A

Really the only odd voicing used is playing the D chord form using the low strings instead of the more normal high strings. This is done to support the bass line which walks upward on the low E string from open string to the 2nd fret (F#) to 3rd fret (G) to the 5th fret (A).



Play 2 bars of Em (8 beats), 2 bars of D (8 beats), 1 bar of C (4 beats), 1 bar of Am (4 beats), and 2 bars of Em.

The second time through play the same progression except when you get to the last 2 bars where the Em is there's some quick chord changes where the Em is: play 2 bars of Em, G, A, G, If you listen in the song you'll hear it.

-Em--G---A---G---- repeat


After you've learned the chords you can click HERE and play along, or click HERE to download.

I didn't do a very good job of recording the acoustic guitar part in this song, but you can hear it jangling along in parts to hear the rhythm of the strum, or just play it however you like. I may rerecord it better in the near future taking care to do a better job with mic placement.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ay Oh - new song I worked on this weeked

Hi all, Just wanted to post a rough mix of the song I was working on this week. It's primarily an instrumental made using loops I recorded in Ableton Live. Everything on there is me except for the drum loop. I moved the loops into Acid and created this rough mix there.

I spent alot of time this weekend working on this, but am excited about how it came out. It's sortof a guitar symphony but I think it ended up having a cool vibe. I've called it "Ay Oh" after the high degree of creativity given the lyrics at this point.

Here aret he links from Unsigned Band Web:
Click HERE to hear the song.
If you want to download the MP3 click HERE.

If you listen I'd love to hear your thoughts. Hope you enjoy it.


Alright, I admit this isn't much of a post, but I I did a double-take when I saw this witty cartoon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thought for the day - squirt tops

I just put a load of laundry in and that spurred my thought of the day.

Why don't laundry detergent and fabric softener bottles have squirt tops? Maybe because they're so big and bulky it might be awkward to try to do a squirt bottle, but shouldn't there be a dispensing system different from the unscrew the lid, poor in cup, mix in with laundry, rinse out cup? I could imagine something like a dishwashing detergent bottle, or maybe a Heinz Ketchup bottle. You'd still need a little cup in the laundry room to fill the fabric softener holder, but it could work.

Just a thought for the innovators at Proctor and Gamble or other places. I'm guessing they've probably tried it at some point.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is a Pringle a potato chip?

For some reason I found this funny.

Is a Pringle a potato chip? I had no idea it's really only about 40% potato product, but at least in Britain they've declared Pringles are sufficiently like "potato chips" to be potato chips - and to qualify them for $160 million in back taxes on potatoes.

Now my question is this: Why have a special tax on potato chips but not corn chips? Are they possibly clearing the way for Doritos' cheesy goodness to take over the savory snack market?

Here's a similar case this one reminded me of these humorous efforts to define obscenity: "I know it when I see it."

Music Industry Distribution changes

I've read several articles recently that center on the theme that music labels and online music distributors are coming to more agreeable terms that should ultimately be economically sustainable for both parties and enable them to restructure their business around these revenue streams and market opportunities. Many of the changes are centered in the label's recognition that there's just not a workable online business model out there that will give them as much revenue as they had hoped.

It looks like the model is increasingly moving to lower cost per song - especially for older songs, unprotected mp3 file formats so you can move songs to different devices without worrying about compatibility, even wider selections, and includes monthly purchase plan options to guarantee revenue streams and repeat customer attention.

Here's a story that expresses the changing landscape of the music distribution biz.