altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
So our musical trio ThingamaJig gave its first public performance under that name today. It was the Woodstock Farmer's Market, on the Square. We were up in the bandstand gazebo and though the organizers provide a tip jar it was located where we couldn't easily see who was putting stuff into it (if any.) The two hour performance went well, and I was pleased with the responses I got for my flute playing. But the best came when Gary went through the contents of the tip jar (actually a plastic bucket) after we got home. It was a little money, which when divided up might buy an ice cream bar or a coffee for each of us. But the great thing was this note:

Neal's response (with which I can only concur) was:

"Best tip ever. I am inspired."
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Yes, I know, official meteorological spring began a month ago and astronomical spring two weeks ago. But one of our significant measuring points was hit over the weekend: our ducks began laying eggs. The first two are in the fridge along with four more left in the hay storage by the neighbors' wandering hens.

Also, I got some sour jelly beans (Starburst, not the best ever but they'll do) so that annual requirement is met. I think last year I never found any at all.

It has been raining on and off for three days. Coming down fairly hard at the moment. I can hear it on the roof and hitting the skylight in the kitchen as well as dripping into the stovepipe (despite the fancy cap that is supposed to prevent that.)

Music chunterings )

Other than going out to care for the horses, I spent most of the day editing and arranging tunes for ThingamaJig. Tomorrow we should see a little more of the sun, but then they tell us to expect some actual snow. Had enough of that now, no thanks.
altivo: (rocking horse)
OK, we added another gig for the ThingamaJig at local fiberfest. Have to get business cards and website up and running.

I finished up a design for the card yesterday, we printed some and they look good enough. Here's the front side of the card.

Back side has personnel and additional contact info on it, summed up on the temporary page I put up here.

[Late addition: Gary has now added a link on the website page above to our actual calendar of events, which has started to fill up nicely enough.]

In other news, late winter seems to be fading into full-fledged summer, with one day in the 80s already this week. No more snow, but rain and fog are intermingled with warm and sunny.

Neighbors' chickens are scratching up my garden beds and generally making a mess. Their German shepherd was over here this morning digging a hole under the corner of the arena. Same people who in the past have visited two very large hogs on us (two different occasions) and a horse once, and a rabbit that kept escaping and coming over to hide in my barn. Their geese used to hang around here squawking and following Gary about, too. They seem to feel no sense of responsibility for any of this.

In spite of all of this, I feel I'm finally getting the hang of being "retired" and not having to do stuff. Except of course for all the stuff I have to do. ;p
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Too much stuff going on.

The most interesting to me, though (I'll avoid political rants for now) has to do with music.

Current musical developments )

In other news, the neighbors' wandering chickens are back again, as many as a dozen of them meandering around our yards and scratching holes in the ground. Just now we had two roosters in a knock down battle that got our dog Laddie all excited and worried. Gary had to literally kick them apart and chase them back toward home in the end. The way they were going at it, I figured the larger one was going to kill the other if left alone. He had the victim trapped in a fence corner and was stomping, scratching and biting for all he was worth. I'd have turned the hose on them except it hasn't been warm long enough for us to have put it out yet.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
The good news: It appears that Midwest Furfest was bigger than ever (5600+ attendees, almost 1600 fursuits in the parade, $62,000 raised for this year's charity "Save-a-Vet".)

The bad news: Though I'd agreed to do a panel with Sparf and Tempe O'Kun, and did register for the con, when push came to shove it was simply not practical for me to get there. I had originally thought I could just drive down for Saturday, but it turns out that parking is non-existent or quite expensive in the area, and dubious at night. The panel was from 8 to 9 pm on Saturday, which would have meant returning alone in the dark to a remote parking lot to drive back home.

I don't much care for driving to begin with, and in a congested unfamiliar area, in the dark, this didn't sound at all appealing. So I thought maybe public transportation would be better. Well, it's theoretically possible to get to the convention hotel from my home if I take Metra commuter rail from Woodstock to Jefferson Park in Chicago, and then transfer to the CTA Blue line to get to Rosemont. It's about a quarter mile walk from the station to the hotel. This would have been workable except that the weekend train schedules are sparse (to put it politely) and with the panel ending at 9 pm, there was only a single train to get me back to Woodstock. Miss that connection for any reason (and there are many possible reasons, from time overruns to a CTA delay which is fairly common) and I'd have been stranded. Even if it worked, I would have gotten back to Woodstock after midnight, and likely have had to stand around in a nearly deserted station at Jefferson Park for 30-40 minutes which is never a pleasant prospect after dark. I've had unpleasant and near-disastrous experiences with that before.

So in the end, I gave up on the whole idea. I felt bad about backing out of the panel, of course, but I knew that Sparf and Tempe would manage it just fine. So I sent my apologies and missed the entire convention. The last time I actually attended MWFF was in 2008. The con has nearly quadrupled in size since then, which is good I guess, but makes it so big that I'm reluctant to go at all. This experience makes it even less likely that I'll try again. Friends who were actually there found the crowds so oppressive at times that they had to leave the hotel to find open and relatively quieter space. I'm very prone to claustrophobia, so avoiding such scenes is probably a better choice for me. I was looking forward to the art show, and a chance to hear Fox Amoore live as well as seeing some friends from out of state, but it didn't work out.

On the other hoof, I did get to attend two of my husband's three live performances that took place this weekend. I would have missed those had I gone to the convention. Saturday morning he was with the Kishwaukee Ramblers at the Woodstock Farmers' Market. That evening the Ramblers appeared again at the Boone County Conservation District's annual Christmas Walk in Belvidere. The setting for that event is a park that includes some historic cabins and a one room schoolhouse that has been reconstructed on the site. The Ramblers played in the schoolhouse by lamplight, where visitors to the park could stop for refreshments and warm drinks after touring the cabins and the blacksmith shop along trails illuminated by luminaria set along the ground. Here is a photo of the 19th century schoolhouse setting, with my husband Gary on the left playing concertina and hammered dulcimer.

Kishwaukee Ramblers
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
A productive weekend, more or less, but not nearly enough done.

We went up to Williams Bay, Wisconsin with friend Carol to hear the opening performance of the season by the Lake Geneva Symphony. There were only two pieces on the program.

The first was Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, new to all three of us and (I gather) not often performed. The piece clearly reflects the result of an American visit by the French composer, who used jazz styling and motifs throughout. The timing and nuance are almost Gershwin-like, and reminded all of us of American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue though there were no obvious quotes from either of Gershwin's masterpieces. Pianist Krassimira Jordan was remarkable, virtuoso even beyond what I expected, and that is certainly needed for this concerto. The style is intricate rather than bombastic, and requires passages where each hand plays in a different key or time signature, as well as a lot of cross-hand work. The overall result was very fine and we enjoyed it greatly.

The second selection was Tchaikovksy Symphony No. 4 in F minor, which was all the better for Conductor and Musical Director David Anderson's advance explanation of major themes and elements of the work. The LGSO has improved a great deal (not that it was bad to begin with) under Anderson's direction, and the performance came across very well. The French horns play a major role in this symphony, and they sounded like the noted horn section of the Chicago Symphony this time.

A predicted heavy frost skipped over our small garden, so we still have green tomatoes that "might" ripen before the vines are killed, but hope is diminishing. The plants are heavily laden, but almost nothing has turned ripe yet. The pumpkins I did NOT plant have produced six usable pumpkins so far after sprouting from seeds that apparently made it through last winter in the compost bin. There are many more immature fruits on the ground, but I'm pretty sure the frost is going to cut them off soon. These are the small and heavy pumpkins that can be used for pies and soup, not the large thin-shelled jack-o-lantern variety. We will put them to good use.

On Sunday I also baked a peach pie, bought groceries, tried to photograph the fall colors though it wasn't really sunny enough, and made a pot of cholent. We haven't had cholent for a couple of years and the cooler weather inspired me to put it together. It's a traditional Jewish stew, created to cook slowly overnight from Friday to Saturday so it would provide a hot meal on the sabbath without requiring anyone to cook or light a fire. The principal ingredients of my Hungarian version include small lima beans, tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, turnips or rutabaga, smoked sausage (I use a turkey sausage,) and both hot and sweet Hungarian paprika. I usually bake this in a closed cast iron pot at 250°F for about 8 hours, but this time I opted for a slow cooker set to high temperature. A little red wine added near the end of cooking enriches the blend and enhances the aromas. The smell becomes enticing after about four hours and makes you drool after the sixth. As usual, it turned out well, since it is almost foolproof and requires little attention once assembled.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Note to myself perhaps more than anything.

General chuntering about theatre organ sounds )
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Way too many things and stuff, actually. Both in terms of disruptive events and physical items to be sorted and, in at least some cases, eliminated. The house and garage are packed full, in part due to the passing of Gary's mom and sister-in-law at the end of last year. The calendar is full too, mostly with things I didn't choose to put there but alas, most of them require action on my part.

Long post under cut )

And that's where I've been. Still ticking, just way too busy.
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
(As opposed to one-upsmanship, wretched excess, and destructive enhancement? Well, maybe...)

A week ago, good friend @RothRWolf and I went up to Organ Piper Pizza in Greenfield, Wisconsin, for a little entertainment and lunch. We've been there before, and will be again I'm sure. The restaurant has a Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ (enhanced with a lot of additional traps and pipe ranks) installed and a regular round of organists who perform daily. This time some questions about the mechanical controls on a theatre organ console came up, and I did my best to answer in simple terms. (Though I'm no virtuoso, I do have some playing experience and a lot of hours of disappointing practice behind me.) Concepts such as "second touch" and "reversible pistons" can be tricky to explain, even to other musicians if they don't play the keyboards or don't have exposure to the way things were done before MIDI came along.

I won't go into the history of the electro-pneumatic action or the tragedy of Robert Hope Jones, its inventor and primary promoter, here. Let's just say that the organ console is a hugely intricate device that rivals a mechanical computer, even to the point of some pretty impressive programmability and non-volatile memory.

Anyway, it's always difficult to point out the details of these functions at a live performance. For one thing, you don't have a close enough view of the performer's hands and feet, or of the controls available to him/her. Even in a venue like the Organ Piper, which is a lot more intimate than the original theatre setting of the instrument and is designed to let the audience see the pipes and mechanics at work, it would be pretty rude to stand next to the console and stare at the performer's hands or feet. I haven't seen anyone, even little kids, doing that and I'm not about to do it either. (Let alone point at things and shout out explanations while they are playing...)

Critical essay cut for brevity. Caveat lector. )

Thanks for bearing with me while I was being overbearing. I don't mean any disrespect to these performers, all of whom are great virtuosi whose abilities I can only envy and admire. I just think that there's a practical limit beyond which dramatics can overshadow the artistry of a performance.
altivo: 'Tivo in fursuit (fursuit)
Weather was tolerable today, a bit warmer and damper than we'd like, but not the blazing steamy furnace of the past two weeks. That is scheduled to return on Monday, though.

Drove up to Delavan, Wisconsin to attend a performance by the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra in Phoenix Park. It was just about perfect weather. No biting insects because it has been so dry, a mostly clear sky, light breeze, and temperature in the 70s. The park is a green square in the middle of an old Victorian neighborhood, and it was easy to blot out the utility poles and electric wires along the streets and imagine the setting in 1890 or 1900, with local residents sitting on their porches to listen to the music since there would be no noise of motorcycles, airplanes, or vehicle traffic to interfere with it. Perhaps there were trolley cars on Second St. but I'm not sure. Delavan may have been too small for that. Traffic would have been horse and buggy, and the streetlights probably gas powered.

The performance was nice enough, though really a brass band would be more appropriate to cut through the background noise and carry through the entire square.

Raspberry Pi is now up and running with Raspbian which is specially tuned for the hardware and significantly faster running as a result. The HDMI to VGA conversion box arrived in today's mail, so I can run it with a better display as soon as I clear some space on my desk for it. I will also be able to get it onto the network there and add some packages and do the latest updates.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Here is the first of a series of photos that cover the flax processing yesterday morning.

Flax Processing 1

To view the whole series, click the image above and on the resulting screen use the "next" link to proceed through the entire group of 14 images. Note that they are in no special order. We were doing all the steps at once after thing got started, as individuals rotated from one tool to another.

After that, I went directly to the Illinois Railway Museum for the Rails 'n' Tails picnic. Gary's group, Kishwaukee Ramblers, were providing some music for us and they allowed me to sit in with them for a bit. Here I am (left) with Gary (center) and Neal (right.) Amy was to the right of Neal and didn't fit into the picture.

Today we kept a lazy low profile for the most part, trying to recharge from yesterday. Both of us got some sunburn and have been running on short sleep for several days.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
I promised weeks ago to post a photo of the eggs from our ducks, and here, I've finally gotten round to it:

Circle of... eggs

This is two days' production from three ducks, arranged like the circle of chords since I've been practicing again (with Neal and Gary today.) The white eggs are C major, and the blue eggs are G major or G7, the dominant, while the olive tan eggs are F major, the sub-dominant chord... No, I'm not drunk, just being silly here.

Early this morning I succeeded in getting my Literati ereader to upgrade itself to version 2.0 of the firmware system, last one available. Once studied out, the solution was simple enough. The files I first downloaded to perform the upgrade were corrupt. It turns out that with Firefox, right-click "Save link as..." was not sufficient to transfer a compressed tar file unscathed. The same approach using Internet Explorer worked without corruption, as did wget used from a command line. Given an uncorrupted package file, the system was perfectly happy to read it in and perform the upgrade. Now it accepts epub files over the USB cable, either by direct copy or by transfer using Calibre, Adobe Digital Editions, or Kobo Desktop. Quite a few features were added in the upgrade as well, with better display controls, more options for finding and viewing books, and so forth. Dropping a 2GB SD card into the expansion slot gives enough memory to hold hundreds of books, an entire library's worth. I no longer need feel that I mad a mistake in purchasing this. (It's compatible with Nook and Kobo books, as well as and Project Gutenberg epub files work well too, and borrowed library ebooks are compatible. In other words, very similar to a Kobo or Nook ereading device, except it has a color LCD display.)

Busy weekend ahead, but I think I'm enough on top of it to enjoy it if the weather holds up.


Jun. 6th, 2012 09:51 pm
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
The guitar is a vice that requires constant practice. By neglecting the instrument for years, I have of course lost all the callus on my left hand and consequently I now have sore fingertips. At least it's a familiar condition and I know it will go away.

I think I am at the bottom of the problem with the Literati upgrade. It appears that the firmware update, which is downloaded as a compressed tar archive, does not download correctly if you are using a current version of Firefox. It ends up with many spurious characters (probably carriage returns or linefeeds) inserted into it, corrupting the file. At first I thought this was because I used a Linux system to download rather than Windows. However, repeated tests have now shown that if the file is downloaded by Internet Explorer it is saved correctly and has the expected length and checksum. If downloaded by Firefox the file is longer than expected and has an incorrect checksum. I suspect that the server offering the download is set up improperly as well, so that Firefox doesn't get a correct mime type for the file and tries to handle it as text. IE assumes from the file suffix that it is an unknown binary blob and as a result performs a correct download. In other words, FF follows standard more strictly than IE does, and this server isn't following the standards either, so the results are unpredictable.

I know have what should be correct copies of the update file, and will attempt the upgrade again very soon. But not tonight. I'm too tired and might mess it up.

Got up early, turned out horses and sheep, and went to a practice session for Saturday. Went directly from the practice to work for eight hours. Came home from work, had supper, and I'm more than ready for bed. Tomorrow we do it in a reverse order. I'll go to work first, and we'll practice in the afternoon.

Had an interesting GPS malfunction too. After practicing this morning, Gary and I had lunch on the east side of Woodstock. We debated what the shortest route through town and out the west side would be in order to get onto US14 and head for Harvard. Finally I decided to just let my GPS choose. Very odd. I plugged the Garmin in and turned it on. It acquired satellite fixes. Then I asked it to plot a route to the library in Harvard, an address it has stored in memory. Two attempts produced an error message: "Unable to calculate route." I've never seen that. It's the GPS equivalent of "You can't get there from here," I suppose. The third time it claimed to have a route, but I should have been tipped off by the fact that it was estimating travel time at 2 and 1/4 hours. It should have been closer to 25 minutes.

So I started out and it immediately told me to turn away from the direction I knew I had to go. It kept trying to get me to turn around and head for Chicago, preferably by way of the Northwest Tollway. This made no sense at all, so I ignored it and picked my own route. It never quit trying to turn me around. I didn't shut it off because I wanted to look at it and see where it thought I was going.

Once I was parked at the library, I examined the entire plotted route. It was trying to take me to Portage, Indiana to a friend's apartment. How it got that turned around I have no idea. When I left work I let it calculate a route home, and it did that correctly. Or at least as correctly as it ever does. It makes one odd choice that may shave a few feet off the distance covered but just seems illogical. However, it has alwasy done that on this particular route.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
"And Flun is the letter I use to spell Flunnel,
A softish nice fellow who lives in a tunnel.
He only comes out of his tunnel it's said
When the right kind of softish nice music is played
On a kind of a hunting horn called the O'Grunth.
To learn how to play one takes month after month
Of practicing, practicing, isn't much funth.
And besides, it's quite heavy, weighs almost a ton-th,
So few people bother to play the O'Grunth
And the Flunnel's been out of his tunnel just one-th."

—Dr. Seuss, On Beyond Zebra

(I hope I got that all right. No copy handy to check.)

Finally down to practicing music for the IRM picnic on Saturday. Gary and I ran over a selection of train-related songs he has picked out. Tomorrow morning we'll meet with Amy and go over some again. And possibly Thursday afternoon with Neal. Then he meets with Neal and Amy on Friday while I'm at work. And then it's Saturday and we try to fit it all together live. Ha ha. Ho ho. Hee hee.

Getting back my guitar calluses after years of slacking is rough. And that says nothing about trying to get back the actual licks. But no matter.

*licks sore finger tips* I hope.

At least the weather has been nice. Hope it holds up for the weekend. I swear I saw an Anna's hummingbird at the library. And we are swarmed with orioles and goldfinches here at home. Thought there was a baby screech owl nearby last night, but it could have been a neighbor weaning a foal. The sound is not that different.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
The weather was lovely though, if a bit warm.

Topped it all off with a brilliant concert by the Lake Geneva Symphony in which we heard Walton's "Crown Imperial," Elgar's Cello concerto, Arnold's "Four Scottish Dances" and Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War" and "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" from The Planets. Excellent stuff, even if Mars is a bit hard on the ears with all those drums.

Today saw the biggest opossum I've ever seen in my life. It must have weighed well over 20 pounds and was poking around behind the arena. We scared it off, hopefully, though it only ran into an old logpile left by the previous owners. I don't care one way or another about opossums except that they're ugly and I don't want them to contaminate my hay. They can carry a parasitic protozoan that causes nasty effects in horses. They've also been known to carry rabies, though the only reported rabies in our county this year was in a bat if I recall correctly what the vet said.

Tomorrow Gary wants to go to an open house of the Kishwaukee Valley & Eakin Creek Model Railroad Club over in Huntley. They have running layouts in four scales: G, O, HO, and N.


Apr. 25th, 2012 09:51 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Day relieved largely by a nice opportunity to recomment furry books from mainstream literature (rather than explicit furry small press titles) on Twitter.

Tomorrow will be long too, with an in service training seminar that I'm helping to give for new catalogers (and old) in our consortium.

Old guitar strings swapped onto my classical guitar still haven't settled very well. Every time I check they are flat again. Maybe this will continue until the newly ordered ones arrive, and I can start all over again.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Spent a large chunk of the day configuring a new firewall box, since Watchguard dropped support for the one we have been using (only 3 years old.) This wouldn't be so bad if they made it easier to move your setup from one box to another, but... they don't. Which forced me to go through the entire configuration bit by bit, and that's not entirely bad since I decided that about half of it was pointless. Left that half out. We shall see what happens when I test it. Testing has to happen when the library is closed, since it will knock out the internet connection completely a couple of times. That means going in to work on Sunday probably. Ugh.

Because we've suddenly been seized with the idea of performing railroad songs for a picnic at the railroad museum in June, I dug in the music closet (yes, we have a music closet) and retrieved one of my guitars. Which hasn't been played for quite a few years. The strings were hopeless, of course, but there was another set in the case so I changed them out.

While we were watching The Muppets (latest Muppet film) borrowed from the library. Our conclusion: not the best one they ever did, but fun anyway. Or at least funny. Oh Jim Henson how we miss you.

Gary made an Indian dish from cauliflower and potatoes for dinner. It was good, actually, though I think he took the instructions a bit too literally on the serrano peppers. Not into the pain spectrum, but certainly rates a HOT! or so. The rice and chutney work to balance it out in the end. Hopefully it won't come back to haunt my dreams in a little while.

Guitar will need a day or so to settle in pitch so it will hold a tuning, so I haven't found out yet how much I remember about playing it. Not that I was any kind of master, but I used to be tolerable. Keyboards are more my forte (pun intended) or even wind instruments, but keyboards just aren't portable enough for most things outdoors. We shall see.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Nothing routine about this Saturday. Well, except we still had to feed and care for animals. But the day started off with some rather freakish thunderstorms, really isolated little pockets surrounded by clear skies at least as far as the radar was concerned. There was heavy hail, though no tornado threat, and sudden intense rain. The storms moved slowly, and the rumble of thunder continued from various directions for almost two hours, sometimes continuously for several minutes.

Then we went to the Harvard Expo, where I had offered to appear for two hours as the Book Wolf at the library booth. That went well enough. Gary came along to help and did get some photos.

Argos at the Expo

Believe me, it was warm under all that fur for two hours. By Gary's count, one in five younger children was terrified of me, though the others were eager enough to come up and get a cookie at least.

Barely got the costume dried and myself showered before it was time to run off again for a St. Patrick's Day musical performance at the local banquet hall and restaurant. Gary's Wednesday session group was down one violin and they asked me to sit in on flute, as I mentioned before. It went reasonably well. The group was paid something, I'm not sure how much, but we also got dinner out of it. The corned beef was good, with red potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. And they had malt vinegar and horseradish, not just the usual ketchup and mustard for condiments. We played from 5:30 to 9:00 pm with a break for dinner. Some of the audience were quite enthusiastic about it. At least no one threw anything at us. ;p
altivo: 'Tivo in fursuit (fursuit)
I've mentioned before that I committed to appear in fursuit at the library booth, Harvard City Expo tomorrow. I agreed to a two hour stint, in the morning, which is fortunate as tomorrow is supposed to get hot and humid by afternoon I guess. Argos the white wolf will be carrying a basket full of library fortune cookies (yes, really) because our summer reading theme this year is food based. The booth is the "Diggins Diner" because our library was founded by Delos F. Diggins in 1909. I thought the book wolf should have a staff ID, so I cooked this one up for him to wear on a badge lanyard tomorrow.

Library ID badge - Argos

Then in the evening I'll be playing Irish flute with one of Gary's groups as they perform for St. Paddie's at a local bar and eatery. The restaurant is actually Italian, but I guess drinking and eating works in any language. Ran through the music with Gary last night and I don't expect to cause any disasters. Their lead fiddler couldn't make it that night due to an orchestra performance I think, so they asked me to sit in.

So off to bed early and hope I can sleep. I know I'll sleep well once this is over.

August 2017



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