Sunday, December 11, 2011

Times are Tough

As the economy around us seems to go from bad to worse it's important to be aware of activity that could impact you financially. Let's face it, times are tough and many people will resort to drastic measures to help themselves.

So begins my story...

I had the recent surprise of a box in the mail. I like getting stuff in the mail. Who doesn't? However, I wasn't expecting anything that would arrive in a box. Sure enough though, here it was. About the size of a shoe box it was. I opened it, and I was not surprised to actually find a shoe box inside. I wasn't expecting a bright pink shoe box, but truthfully I wasn't expecting anything, so what the heck, let's explore further. I opened the box.

Sure, because of the pink box I was expecting ladies shoes. I really didn't have more of an expectation than that. What I got was clearly not the sort of shoes that I'd chose for myself - obviously.

These were a black velvet, five inch heel pumps studded with metal spikes. They're a size 7.5(US).

Now, had I in a fit of insanity ordered these and forgot about it they were clearly not my size, nor were they the right size for Tina. It then occurred to me that maybe someone else had access to my credit card. I checked my wallet and the card was still there. Good, it's not lost. So, I called the credit card company.

After a short conversation with the customer service representative I determined that someone had been using my card for a variety of things. There were all sorts of Blackberry apps purchased (I don't own a Blackberry), there was also a subscription to Hulu, Netflix and Columbia House.

I was glad I trusted my initial instinct and called the credit card company. Although there was paper work to be filed it was minimized by me catching it early. I should also mention that I was lucky that Shoe Dazzle decided to ship to the address listed on the credit card. That was the big tip off.

A couple of days later I got a shipment from Columbia House. It was then I guessed that the person who was using my card number might be doing their Christmas shopping since they had ordered three of the same DVD. Again, it's nice to see that Columbia House ships to the address registered with the credit card.

As amusing as it was to get a pair of spiky high heel pumps in the mail there was a lesson learned here. That being that these sorts of things can happen to any of us. We're all susceptible to this sort of fraud. Friends, please keep an eye on your credit and debit card transactions. If you don't your Christmas spending might come to a quick halt when you discover your account has been emptied or your credit card maxed out. And while both scenarios are fairly easily resolved, it's not something that you want to have surprise you during your shopping trip, or when you're paying for a meal.

I guess the next thing I have to figure out is what I'm going to do with these shoes...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Something Ain't Right

People get all sorts of notions. I know I do. Spotted these banjo salt and pepper shakers and thought for sure they'd be the perfect addition to a Banjo Deviant blog. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You're not listening.

You may think I'm being harsh; maybe I am, but I don't think you're listening. From the endless array of questions ranging from everything from picks, to how to strike a string with a finger (or a thumb), it's occurred to me that you might not be listening to what you're doing.

Let me ask some questions. Since it's music, of all the things that should be at the top of your list of priorities, shouldn't sound be part of it? How can you affect sound if you're not listening? What difference does it make how much you know about theory, or strings, or set-up, or whatever, if you're not listening to what you're playing? Why are you collecting tab after tab of tunes that are way too advanced for you? Even when you're playing through your tab collection you're still stumbling over simple concepts and even missing entire sections of the tune; yet, if you were listening shouldn't you be able to notice?

There's a very active thread on the Banjo Hangout where several members have labored long and hard to explain bounce and swing. It's been described every which way. Yet, with all the words nothing explains it better than just listening to it.

"Fine!" You say, "I'm not listening - whatever. You do things you're way, I'll do things my way."

I've encountered that attitude lately. I still contend - regardless of your particular learning style - that learning music is going to require you to listen.

I see/hear this with my students too. They get involved with the patterns and forget that they're supposed to be making music. Now, don't get me wrong, you need to focus on the mechanics, but the mechanics is not the music.

So please, just for me, take some time this week and just start listening to banjo playing. Not just that, start listening to what you are playing. Does it sound like you want? No? Make some changes, and keep listening.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I dunno, maybe you could practice?

Read the following article. Just do it.

In case it looks daunting, and uninteresting consider the following quotes.

"...what could be easier than improving at something you suck at? The bar is so low."

"Frankly, you should revel in the things you suck at. What a fantastic opportunity to grow with hardly any effort!"

How can this relate to the banjo for you? Do you suck at single-string? Maybe you suck at back-up. Whatever the issue, what's the hold up?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

They got it wrong...

...and you've been listening to them anyway.

It's time to deviate from much of the standard advice you've been listening to. It's time to take a practical approach. It's time to play the banjo!

More to come!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I needed a PA for my School Program...

...and some very kind people chipped in to help me make the purchase!

Everyone who supported this deserves recognition and more thanks and more appreciation than I'm able to sufficiently express. Due to the generosity of others my school program is even more versatile now!

Thanks to the donations I was able to purchase the Fishman SoloAmp 220 that I was hoping for.

Special thanks to Karyn T., Doug D. , Bart C., Chad W., Tedd L., David M., Hobert P., Edna P., Mike L., Danny M., Patrick S., James C..

Extra Special Thanks to Butch L. for your extra special support!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Twenty Five Years

This past August 16th Tina and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. There were no festivities, so please don't think your invitation may have been lost, or worse yet we decided to cut you from our list of invitees. We had a quiet day at Red Clay State Park.

Why Red Clay? It was one of our regular places to go when we were dating. It's close by, it's quiet, and it's free. It gave us plenty of opportunity just to walk and talk and get to know each other. Maybe that's the secret of a successful marriage. People often ask those of us that have been married for a while what the secret is. Maybe it's just simply getting to know one another.

So that's going to be my advice to dating couples. Get to know each other. Spend some time hiking and walking together at many of the great State and National parks. You'll save money, and you'll learn a lot about the person you're with. Keep it simple.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recording King Madison

Way back in February Greg Rich and I started discussing the possibility of me becoming a Recording King endorsing artist. I played a few of their banjos and was seriously impressed. They were needing someone to endorse the RK-R35, so I agreed to give it a whirl.

The banjo arrived and after some setup it's a great banjo. Check it out:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I don't like to ask...

...but sometimes my heart gets me into things that my head (and wallet) can't figure out easily.

This is, however, something I really believe in.

So here's the pitch...

Over the past two years I've been working on a school presentation related to the history of the 5-string banjo.

It's a fun program and it's suitable for a social studies curriculum as well as a music curriculum. It's a flexible format, but at the max it could be about 1.5 hours. Now, I realize that time doesn't fit a lot of classroom schedules and so the material can be condensed to suit a teacher's needs.

So, why am I asking for help?

I'm a musician on a mission. I've not charged for any of my presentations, and I hope to keep the cost of doing this at a minimum - for the schools and for myself. I try to avoid too many cliches, but this is a labor of love.

Those of you that know me know I'm pretty well set for banjos - though I can already see I need to expand my collection by at least 2 instruments to cover more history visually. However, as important as that is, first I need a small PA that is easy to setup and transport.

I have a wonderful friend that will allow me to purchase the PA at a very generous discount. (You know who you are.) Never the less it's not cheap, and once I tell my friend I want it, well, I'm compelled to keep my end of the deal.

The good news: school is out! That means I'll have time to scrape up the cash before school starts back. Hopefully, I'll have paid for the system by then!

Oh, if you're wondering what I have in mind, it's the Fishman SoloAmp SA220. It packs into one bag, and will do everything I need it to for most classrooms and libraries. The retail price is over $1500, and I'm thrilled that I have means of getting it at a good discount. I'm only trying to cover a portion of the cost.

I realize times are hard and finances are tight for everyone. My situation probably isn't much different than yours. However, even without anyone chipping in it's something I'll have to purchase if I plan to continue doing these presentations - and I have no intention of giving up on this.

Finally, thanks for taking time to read my plea for help. Anything that you can chip in is going to help get the banjo's marvelous history presented in a fun and positive way to school children. How can that be not a worthwhile cause?

If you can afford it, and would like to see this sort of program feel free to use the widget below.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Oh, I get it...

I've always thought Tina was pretty.  From the moment I saw her her looks captivated me.  She had pretty eyes, pretty hair, and nice features all around.  None of that was ever lost on me.  I got it then and I get it now.  No one ever had to point it out to me.

However, there's rarely a day goes by that someone doesn't mention to me about what a pretty wife I have.  So, to all of you that noticed and mentioned it to me: Thanks.  I guess it just confirms what I already knew.  Of course people are always going to be nice.  So I've always taken those compliments with some reservation and I know she does too.  I guess we're all aware of our own shortcomings and she's no exception, though I usually scoff when she's down on her appearance.

"Do you like my hair like this?"  "Do you like the way these clothes look?"  "Do you like the way I did my make-up?"  Well, yes.  Yes I do.  I know that sometimes she thinks I'm just being nice, but seriously, I like it.  I'm not prone to exaggerations, but well, I'm biased and she knows it.

So today I was poking around online and discoverd a website that claims to do "Facial Beauty Analysis".  Gee, a program to see if you're pretty.  So I figured I'd give it a go.  Oh yeah, I plugged my face into it.  The results were not exactly wonderful, but I wasn't surprised.  I uploaded Tina's picture and followed the instructions.  The attached screenshot records my results.

I knew the outcome before I went the the steps of plotting all the dots it asked me to.  I figure a 9.54 isn't too bad, and yep, I still get it. Am I bragging?  Yes I am.  Sometimes it's deserved. Sure, I realize everyone has different tastes, but I think she's a 10.  But mostly, I'm just glad she picked me. :)

Next time when she's not happy with her looks I'll forward these results to her.

If you want to do your own, the website is here:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Five Years of Pinewood Derby

If you've followed this blog you've read about the Pinewood Derby races we've done since 2007. Today marks our last official Pinewood Derby with Samuel as a Cub Scout. He crosses over to Boy Scouts in a few months, so if he has another car it will just be for fun (not that we've not had fun making and racing these cars).

Over the past five years we've learned a lot about making cars, and we've learned a lot about sportsmanship. We've helped other kids with their cars just to watch them smoke us down the track. We've sometimes felt slighted by odd glitches in the timing or scoring of races. We've often felt quite proud of ourselves when we've built a racer that not only won, but did so by a significant margin.

We've learned (and I say we, because it's not just Samuel involved; it's me too) to hold our heads high and be proud of ourselves regardless of the outcome. We've learned to congratulate others when they win, and encourage others when they don't. We've learned to help others with our knowledge, tools, and materials even if it weakens our advantage.

We've learned to make do with very limited tools and limited access to tools. We've also learned to make do with our limited skill with tools. I think we've learned that it's not always car, it's the heart that goes into it.

Even had we not learned any of that, we've become closer as a family. We've become team. We've learned to support each other and make sure we all feel proud of the accomplishments of another team member. We've learned that by doing our best - even when we don't feel like it - we give strength to those around us (the team/family), and we can look back years from now and be proud.

I'll miss these races. That said, here's a short slide show of the last five years of Pinewood Derby.