lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I spent three hours plunking along (unamplified) with seven amplified members of the Delaware Valley Fingerstyle Guitar Association. Since it was a two-mile walk followed by a nine-mile train ride, I took the beater in a gig bag. I was warmly welcomed this time, and encouraged to sit on the little stage with them. No thanks, said I, I'm just dipping a toe in the water this time. Later, when one of the number had to leave early, I was entreated to take his seat, so I did.

They're all very advanced players, but it was good to chord along -- most of their selections were familiar although I had never played many of them, and I was pleased that I was able to pick up the chords. I even picked a bit on City of New Orleans.

It was a perfect day to walk to the 30th Street Station (our main train station, which serves both AMTRAK and our regional rail, and one of those palaces to transportation from ye golden days of yore). My newly fit knees and ankles didn't mind the two mile walk a bit, and I walked all the way home and most of the way there. I did hop a bus for six blocks on my way there because I was worried I might not make it in time. Silly me -- I got there with 40 minutes to spare.

Which gave me time to discover that my ATM card expired last week. O bother, said Laura. I had gotten a replacement but forgot all about it.

When I got home I picked hot peppers -- about a pint of them. I have more than Roy will be able to eat, so it will be time to start a string.
lblanchard: (Default)
Exercise: 5.5 miles on the bike, 1.3 miles on my feet plus an hour standing around at a party. Not terribly strenuous but better than being a couch potato.

Food: a perfect day on program. I guess I really have lost my appetite for sweets. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania threw a party for its head librarian's 20th anniversary, and the President spent the entire weekend baking the entire spread -- cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, pies, and cookies. I'll pause to let you get your arms around the concept of the president of a big cultural organization personally catering a staff party. I admired the look of the items, enjoyed the scent of the items, and had absolutely no interest in picking up one of the items and eating it. I had a bottle of water.

Callus maintenance: three times up and down the fretboard plus a couple of tunes. Say 45 minutes. I have a band-aid on my left ring finger, down by the nail, because I have an Evil Hangnail that may be slightly infected. That does not contribute much to dexterity. Last night was also the first time I'd played the Martin since we ripped apart the downstairs to accommodate the dining room work -- say two weeks. After two weeks on the beater guitar I really noticed the difference. I guess I won't put it on Craigslist quite yet.

2.5 out of 3 ain't bad.

Someone asked Tommy Emmanuel what his favorite chord was in a Reddit AMA. He replied with a Soundcloud file. It's an E maj 9 and he says "yummy." I have played a muddy version of that chord on the beater for the past couple of weeks -- it came out clear as a bell on the Martin. Yummy...

http://soundcloud.com/tommyemmanuel/fave-chord

(It's the real reason I've been playing all those cheater chromatics -- to strengthen and stretch my fingers so I can play a chord that has a four-fret spread.)

My stepson the Guitar Hero is coming up with his family in early-ish December, so I have a goal -- be able to play for two hours without raising blisters. We'll jam with him playing real stuff and me playing simple chords behind him. Hard to believe that when he was a stripling I was teaching him...
lblanchard: (Default)
I have concluded that there is absolutely NO cross-training effect between cycling and walking. How else to explain that after a day or two of walking and a day off my muscles were weak as water?

Well, it was terribly humid and close, which may have had something to do with it, and it was mid-afternoon before I managed to haul my reluctant self out the door.

Despite feeling decidedly unathletic, I did tackle the Mansion Loop, 6 miles and more hills than I usually do, including the Gazebo Hill of Doom (a short sharp shocker), and then did the 9.5 mile drives loop. That plus 4.5 miles to get to and from home and that's a respectable distance, even if it did take me two hours. (See: hills. Also: stop lights. Also a pause under a bridge during a shower.)

I gave away seven members of the Class of 2011 part 1 to a neighbor last night and tossed the rest without feeling terrible guilt.

Today's adventure will be the planting of the Schlumbergera seeds I harvested yesterday. I have bored holes in a salad container and am dampening some seed starting mix.

Although I've played at least a little every day, I've done less callus maintenance than I should be doing and I felt it after playing about ten minutes last night. Back to the woodshed for me!
lblanchard: (Default)
With the Big Grant now part of the past, I'm going on reduced hours for work for my semi-staycation. That is to say, I'll handle the few important things that come up in the next week or so but will otherwise do more or less what I want until my actual calendar birthday.

Today's staycation fun will be a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to view the Visions of Arcadia exhibit (three huge canvases -- a Gaugin, a Cezanne, and a Matisse -- plus other artists of the period). This exhibit should make a wonderful complement to our planned visit to the Barnes Foundation and to the newly-reopened Rodin Museum.

Yesterday I made a huge pot of ground-pork-and-summer-vegetable stew, involving potatoes, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and yellow squash. There's plenty left for tonight's dinner so we won't have to cook when we get home, whee!

Countrywide continues to insinuate itself, slowly, into muscle memory, to the point that I think perhaps I should pay attention to how it's actually played so I don't mis-learn some critical passages. I have the shapes for the bridge measures, for example, but not the right-hand fingering patterns (or, for that matter, the precise notes in my head). It's not up to tempo yet, and isn't likely to be for some time. I downloaded a cellphone metronome app and found I can do fairly well with it set at 89 beats per minute. It actually is played somewhere between 104 and 112 bpm. Well...I can play the four-bar introduction at that pace, but that's it.

Although I'm mostly happy playing by myself right now, especially as I build calluses, I do think I'd benefit from having some chums to play with. Sunday I will venture out to Ardmore, a near suburb well served by public transit, to check out the Delaware Valley Fingerstyle Guitar Association, which meets monthly at a coffee shop. Tommy Emmanuel mentioned them (gave them a shout out is more like it) at the June concert I attended, and that's a pretty good recommendation. If I keep rummaging, I'm sure to find a Philadelphia fingerstyle jam sooner or later, one that will tolerate my skill level.

Oh, and a wee piece of hippeastrum news -- the first of the two Hippeastrum papilio bulbs I ordered last spring has shed its last old leaf, and is putting up a new one! It's in the same pot as one that still has three old leaves, so I think I have to be careful about how I water the pot. I want to encourage dormancy in the one that still has leaves, I think, while encouraging the other to continue putting out new leaves. In other news, one of my Schlumbergera seedlings has wilted. Root rot, I betcha, so I cut off the yucky roots and buried what was left in moist vermiculite up to the first leaf joint. Hey, it worked on the Madisto I grew from cuttings from [livejournal.com profile] clindau a couple years back!

Also, now that it's the month of August I really should cull my Trader Joe x Gervase crosses from 2011. They're huge plants with leaves that are a full two feet long, and I'd like to reduce my thirty plants to eight. No signs of mosaic virus on them, happily, nor on the Class of 2009 out back. Fingers crossed!

Also also, I'll want to remember that on Monday I cut two more willow wands, stripped most of the leaves, and stuck them in a gallon milk jug, slightly cut down. I like the look of my one willow "topiary" so much that I think I want three or four of them to serve as visual barriers on the east side of the back yard. The wand I rooted for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie, meanwhile, has put out roots that resist a gentle tug. Another week and I'll be looking for a mailing tube!

And that's the news...
lblanchard: (Default)
With the Big Grant now part of the past, I'm going on reduced hours for work for my semi-staycation. That is to say, I'll handle the few important things that come up in the next week or so but will otherwise do more or less what I want until my actual calendar birthday.

Today's staycation fun will be a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to view the Visions of Arcadia exhibit (three huge canvases -- a Gaugin, a Cezanne, and a Matisse -- plus other artists of the period). This exhibit should make a wonderful complement to our planned visit to the Barnes Foundation and to the newly-reopened Rodin Museum.

Yesterday I made a huge pot of ground-pork-and-summer-vegetable stew, involving potatoes, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and yellow squash. There's plenty left for tonight's dinner so we won't have to cook when we get home, whee!

Countrywide continues to insinuate itself, slowly, into muscle memory, to the point that I think perhaps I should pay attention to how it's actually played so I don't mis-learn some critical passages. I have the shapes for the bridge measures, for example, but not the right-hand fingering patterns (or, for that matter, the precise notes in my head). It's not up to tempo yet, and isn't likely to be for some time. I downloaded a cellphone metronome app and found I can do fairly well with it set at 89 beats per minute. It actually is played somewhere between 104 and 112 bpm. Well...I can play the four-bar introduction at that pace, but that's it.

Although I'm mostly happy playing by myself right now, especially as I build calluses, I do think I'd benefit from having some chums to play with. Sunday I will venture out to Ardmore, a near suburb well served by public transit, to check out the Delaware Valley Fingerstyle Guitar Association, which meets monthly at a coffee shop. Tommy Emmanuel mentioned them (gave them a shout out is more like it) at the June concert I attended, and that's a pretty good recommendation. If I keep rummaging, I'm sure to find a Philadelphia fingerstyle jam sooner or later, one that will tolerate my skill level.

Oh, and a wee piece of hippeastrum news -- the first of the two Hippeastrum papilio bulbs I ordered last spring has shed its last old leaf, and is putting up a new one! It's in the same pot as one that still has three old leaves, so I think I have to be careful about how I water the pot. I want to encourage dormancy in the one that still has leaves, I think, while encouraging the other to continue putting out new leaves. In other news, one of my Schlumbergera seedlings has wilted. Root rot, I betcha, so I cut off the yucky roots and buried what was left in moist vermiculite up to the first leaf joint. Hey, it worked on the Madisto I grew from cuttings from [livejournal.com profile] clindau a couple years back!

Also, now that it's the month of August I really should cull my Trader Joe x Gervase crosses from 2011. They're huge plants with leaves that are a full two feet long, and I'd like to reduce my thirty plants to eight. No signs of mosaic virus on them, happily, nor on the Class of 2009 out back. Fingers crossed!

Also also, I'll want to remember that on Monday I cut two more willow wands, stripped most of the leaves, and stuck them in a gallon milk jug, slightly cut down. I like the look of my one willow "topiary" so much that I think I want three or four of them to serve as visual barriers on the east side of the back yard. The wand I rooted for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie, meanwhile, has put out roots that resist a gentle tug. Another week and I'll be looking for a mailing tube!

And that's the news...
lblanchard: (Default)
Something finally clicked and I "get" the Bars o' Doom on Countrywide (the song I'm working on for those who aren't following my guitar adventures with bated breath).

Still slow, and still sloppy, but the muscle memory is starting to form and my fingers are going where they're supposed to with less schreck and hesitation. Even the stretch isn't quite as bad.
lblanchard: (Default)
Something finally clicked and I "get" the Bars o' Doom on Countrywide (the song I'm working on for those who aren't following my guitar adventures with bated breath).

Still slow, and still sloppy, but the muscle memory is starting to form and my fingers are going where they're supposed to with less schreck and hesitation. Even the stretch isn't quite as bad.
lblanchard: (Default)
I'm a happy girl today.

First of all, I watched the instructional video and heard Tommy Emmanuel refer to the Bars of Doom as "probably the hardest part of the song." Nice to know the bridge won't be that hard.

Second of all, he has an alternate fingering that's much easier although the notes don't have quite the same voice. But I can use the easier fingering to learn the song and then tackle the harder bits later.

Third of all, I've now seen his calluses. And heard him speak of "these great honking flat surfaces on the ends of my fingers" that make it possible for him to fret two adjacent strings with one finger. That explains the six-fingered guitarist effect. Two of my fingertips are starting to flatten just a little bit, so there may be hope.

Net result: I can now fumble through "Countrywide" from the intro to the bridge. The bridge feels like a bridge too far at the moment but maybe after the weekend...

And I've recruited one of Linda Cohen's students for a play date next Friday. Callus maintenance!
lblanchard: (Default)
It's another nice day, the fourth consecutive with no rain, so plants in pots will need tending to. I don't want a repeat of Friday's disaster with the curly willow.

The mother plant is still abundantly supplied with new shoots, so yesterday I chose a nice unbranched willow wand, cut it, and brought it indoors to root somewhere that's less likely to breed mosquitoes. It should be ready for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie just in time for her to have to plant it and nurse it through the dog days of August. Some friend I am!

Since I can't listen to the same Tommy Emmanuel album, even a double album, all the time without getting serious ear fatigue, I'm working on tuning my Pandora "artistic wizardry" station so that there are no vocals and no intrusive other instruments (nose flutes, etc.). I'll tolerate some well-behaved bass or percussion as long as it's not the main event. The station is getting pretty well-tuned; I only reject about one track out of ten now.

Callus maintenance sessions are now up to 45 minutes a day. Since I'm shifting from holding the guitar on my left knee to holding it on my right like the rest of the non-classical world, and since I'm also switching to using a thumb pick, everything is unfamiliar and I sound like crap, I think. Roy says he can see improvements but I think he's just being loyal and supportive and all that. I think I mentioned reading that water is not the friend of the callus builder, so I'll be rummaging for my rubber gloves. Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, is my friend. We'll see...

I got my mailing for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's member's day with the annual beg for plant donations. The cupboard is awfully bare this year, but in the coming years it may be a home for extra hybrid hippeastrums, now that I have some interesting ones to share.
lblanchard: (Default)
It's 98F outside. I'm very glad I had my bike ride this morning, when it was only 85F.

Roasting chickens were cheap at the ACME supermarket this weekend, $.79/lb, limit two. Also large eggs, $.99, limit one. On my way back from my bike ride, I stopped in and bought two chickens and a dozen eggs. And nothing else! Go me.

I spent a bit of the afternoon Google-stalking Tommy Emmanuel yesterday. I found one bit in an interview that made me giggle. He and his brother discovered Chet Atkins when they were young, and were sure that the Great and All Powerful Chet would never use a cheater, aka a capo. So they struggled with Windy & Warm in c-minor, which is an epic struggle I can't even contemplate. Fast-forward to 1980 when Emmanuel finally met Atkins and they were playing together. Emmanuel suggested W&W and The Great and All Powerful Chet said, fine, capo up to the third fret.

Gotcha. So I played Windy & Warm with my capo on the third fret, too, yesterday and again today. So there. Linda Cohen is probably rolling over in her grave, but too bad for her.

I wasn't careful and I have blisters on my fingertips. Too bad for me.
lblanchard: (Default)
My friend Mark suggested we add this track from the Traveling Wilburys to our repertoire. It always makes me sniffle because of the empty chair with Roy Orbison's guitar, but what the heck.

So today I tried it. The introduction does NOT work on a classic guitar with its 12 fret neck. It marginally works with a steel-string with a 14-fret neck. I suspect it would work best of all with one of those jazz guitars with the cutaway at the bottom.

Roy laughed a big laugh when he saw me trying to skitter my fingers down the fingerboard way below where the guitar meets the neck. Grr. It was somewhat better on the beater.

Watch it if you're interested. You can see George Harrison entering the Cutaway Zone to do the intro. But I don't have a cutaway.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwqhdRs4jyA
lblanchard: (Default)
It was actually a very small acoustic jam -- me and another guy who alternated between his own mandolin and my beater guitar, and 2-3 kibbitzers and occasional singers. And a stiff breeze made our song sheets want to be other than where we wanted them, and we fumbled around more than a little agreeing on songs.

But the weather was nice, we played more than we fumbled, and we agreed that we'd do it again when we're both back from vacation, August 21. Also, many shoppers slowed down as they passed us, and smiled.

I pronounce it a success. If we have as much fun at the second one, so much the better.

Bike ride

Aug. 2nd, 2010 08:11 am
lblanchard: (Default)

2010-08-01_02thelakes
Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
Yesterday I veered off the regular round-the-lakes loop to take a path less taken between Edgewood and Meadow Lakes. I was rewarded by this intimate glimpse of the gazebo. There's also a small bit of meadow established at both lake margins. Although it is infested with abundant loosestrife, there is also Joe Pye weed, common milkweed, and various native shrubs. The early monarchs were out in force.

In fact, there was a distinctly autumnal cast to the air.

Barielle report -- I can see an incipient split in the nail with the splitting problem, but so far the various lotions and potions seem to be holding it together. It's so nice to be able to pluck the strings with a nail instead of a finger pad, so I hope this works.
lblanchard: (Default)
Wunderground says it's 85F right now (10 pm) but I don't believe it. Our courtyard thermometer said low 80s a couple of hours ago, and I'm sure it was low humidity. We set out a small fan because the skeeters were intensely interested in my feet. We sat out back, came in to cook, went out to eat, went back in to clean up, and went back out. I've only now come in (Roy came in a bit earlier).

I do believe I had a two-hour callus development session. My fingertips are pretty tender. I don't know how chipper I'll be feeling after my rendezvous with the dentist tomorrow, so I hope to do a long bike ride in the early morning tomorrow to make up for what's likely to be a lost weekend. Roy has promised to go to the farmer's market when we get home and buy tasty things like tomatoes.
lblanchard: (Default)
Roy should be arriving in Bedford any time now, so I'm waiting by the phone to hear what he has to say about the property. UPDATE: Roy reports that the view is the only good thing about the house. The house is small and mean, the neighborhood is ugly (with derelict vehicles parked in side yards and no real evidence of properties being kept up), the slope behind the house is steep enough to preclude gardening, and there are biker-girl stopping hills leading into the development. But other parts of Bedford, he says, are quite nice. He will continue his explorations.

Meanwhile...

My Barielle nail-strengthening product order arrived (already) and I'm puzzling over the four products trying to decide how they should all work together. I *think* I should be rubbing in one of the creams a couple times a day and one of them at night for a couple of weeks, and then adding the two polish-like things as a "base coat" and "top coat" substitute for real nail polish. I'm not entirely clear on how I'm supposed to remove the stuff, though, given that their literature suggests that nail polish remover is spawn of satan. Perhaps it will wear off by week's end. Ah, well...I have a couple weeks to figure it out.

The guitar practice is paying off -- Friday and yesterday I played "Leda" up to tempo and without start-overs. Not without wrong notes but nothing that held me up. Soon I may be able to add some of the dynamics that made Linda Cohen's performances so memorable. I've also been working at "Wendago" and "Windy & Warm" -- two that I found on the discovered tape, and also on YouTube by Doc Watson. The calluses are getting serious.

In the back yard all is well. On the windowsills, the one fruit from the Schlumbergera truncata has turned from pinkish green to pinkish purple. I have consulted with Teh Google and learn that I don't have to do anything except wait for the fruit to fall off. Then I should remove the seeds from the fruit, let them dry for a day, and plant them.
lblanchard: (Default)

2004-07-10bjarton
Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
My fingers were hurting the other day after a session with the Martin. On impulse I dragged out the Bjarton. My fingers are *much* happier with the nylon strings. What a surprise.

My fat fingers are also much happier with the wider neck. And some time spent fighting with steel strings has made it much easier for me to hold barre chords, etc.

Hmmmm. So I put the Martin back in its case and put the Bjarton on the stand. I had forgotten how much I loved the feel of this instrument when I was growing up. It turns out not to be especially valuable -- probably not worth much more (and quite possibly less) than I didn't pay for it in the early 60s, when Hohner imported a couple samples with a view toward bringing them into the U.S. market. (My dad was the Hohner rep for most of the eastern U.S. from 1955-1967, which is how I wound up with the guitar.)
lblanchard: (Default)

090329_01hippeastrum
Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
Settling back into a routine, sort of.

There's some definite swelling on the pollinated hippeastrum. (For comparison, see entry from a week ago.) Looks like I can expect some seeds. Wonder if they'll germinate as exuberantly as the last batch.

There's another Nopalxochia flower at the peak of its bloom, and the last one is starting to color up.

Three peony shoots have poked through so far. I hope to see at least two more.

I did three loads of wash.

Roy came home from walking the dog all excited because there was a bluegrass jam taking place on our block and he got us invited. I went to observe, then sent him home for my guitar and played till my thumb blistered (forgot to ask for a pick).

It was sunny and warm, and then we had a thunderstorm with hail the size of peas.


ETA: Forgot to mention that the microwave had an epic fail (including bolt-like flashes of light, loud noises, and bad smells) yesterday. We've had it since 2000. So we lugged it out back and reinstalled the Amana Touchmatic Radarange that Roy got in 1978. We retired it because we wanted a smaller model in our kitchen but we kept it, and a good thing it is, too. It looks as though we have the dashboard of a 1978 Buick Skylark on the kitchen counter, but it works.

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