greatbear: (gay men like rush too)
I know it's been a while since I posted anything, By request, I am reposting this from Facebook.

This weekend was Jeff's birthday weekend. I was hoping for decent weather among all the things we had planned. The weather did not disappoint, and the weekend, which included Friday afternoon, really couldn't have been better. We made a last-minute decision to go and watch the Orioles play. Unlike other time when we purchased tix beforehand, we took a shot to see what we could find at the ticket booth at the stadium. I splurged a bit and got us club level seating. The O's squeaked in a win at the last possible moment at the bottom of the 9th and everyone went home happy. We got an early start on Saturday, heading off to Home Depot for more garden supplies, bits to make one more grow frame and some other goodies. After a bit of a break, we headed down to Bristow, VA to see Rush on the R40 tour. 40 years! I was there nearly at the beginning too.

Seeing Rush is an experience unlike any other rock band I know of, and that experience begins well before getting close to the venue. Checking into the hotel 4 or so miles from the venue had people in the lobby in Rush clothing and swag. The TGIFriday's where we got our late lunch/early dinner had I would say 3/4 of the clientele going to the show. But, unlike any other fanbase, there were old greybeards like us, young couples, teens, old folks, grandparents, great-grandparents, you name it. A couple at the restaurant had two young boys, the oldest maybe six. They had Rush shirts on. The crowd entering the venue looked more like what you'd see heading into Disney World. My boys put on an amazing show, as always. We stayed overnight rather than taking a bleary-eyed trip home nearly at midnight. It was a good decision, we picked up late night grub at Wendy's to take back to the room. I slept mostly like a rock for a change.

We headed out early, and integrated our trip home with our weekly grocery grab. A cool bonus was getting there early, at the time when the Burtonsville cruise was in full spring. This little local event, held every Sunday in the spring and summer has grown quite a bit. We walked among the varied cars, trucks and rides. Jeff got his first glimpse of the Slingshot three-wheeler and immediately fell in full lust with it. After snapping lots of phone pics on top of the dozens from last night's show, we got our goodies for the week and headed home to a pair of very appreciative pooches. we took it easy for a change, then had steaks on the grill, big baked potatoes, veggies and an ice cream cake I picked up while Jeff was cooking dinner.

This was the most walking and activity I have had since last September, when my spine gave out again and left me immobile for the entire winter. I managed better than I expected, but dealt with a lot of pain due mostly to having to (try to) stand for the entire performance. I've got the walking part down pretty good. I can even do some not-so-light work if I am able to take numerous breaks. But the thing that is death to me still is standing motionless for more than a few minutes. I was nearly delirious from pain after the show, but I was too blown away from the concert to worry too much. Here's where the overnight stay helped a lot as well.

This was a great weekend, one not so full of work for a change, and one that we had deserved for the longest time.
greatbear: (four cycle)
I've gone on and on about my love for music via these pages since I began the whole LJ thing over ten years ago. I also have written ad infinitum about my love of automobiles (when they aren't causing me some hellbound fit because something is wrong and I am in the midst of fixing them, at least). I've been perusing a bunch of saved links (not much else I can do) and found this video, one I meant to post here some time ago. It's somewhat of an ad, but it has no focus on a particular product. In it, we are treated to something very simple, but for people like me, it has a very special, deep meaning. It is the sight and, more importantly, the sound of several high performance cars being started up. Domestic to exotic, every one has its own place among some of the greatest performance automobiles. Each one has it's own voice, it's own song. Like some of my favorite music, hearing this music brings a smile to my face.

Find your best set of earphones, or killer surround system, maximize your screen and enjoy.

greatbear: (jeff and me)
Jeff and I met 14 years ago on October 23, 2000. That was yesterday (Thursday). Until we got married, Oct. 23 was our "unofficial official" anniversary date, one we'd always celebrate with a dinner out. While our marriage date has become the "official" anniversary, we will continue to celebrate both days. Why? Well, because it's fun and nice and we get to have a special dinner in unusual places and we can get all sappy and lovey and just plain be happy. So, as has been our tradition all these years, we went out for dinner, trying to pick some place where we never had been before. As it turns out, we didn't have to travel more than about a mile from the the house to a restaurant that opened a couple years ago but one we had not explored yet, saving it for, well, a special occasion. Funny how that turned out. This new place, Sushi Tendou, turned out to be a delightful little Japanese steakhouse. The menu was packed with selections, and we were settling on some interesting things we never had before. Now, I'm not sure exactly why this happened, perhaps being a stone's throw from La Casa Mayhem, or the way that strange things seem to happen to me, but the system they have playing new age-y styled Oriental-tinged music begins playing a song very familiar to me, but one I had not heard in many years, "Midnight in Moscow," also known as "Moscow Nights." Why a Japanese steakhouse would begin playing a very Russian song in a light new age style is beyond me, and it took me a few seconds for the minor keys to register in my brain. Once that happened... I lost it.

This was my Mom's favorite song.

A little bit of history is needed. In the mid-1950s, Mom was settling into her life as an American citizen, having left stateside Army duty as a WAC during the Korean war, and starting to build a domestic life that eventually settled in Maryland not far from where I am today. She got married, Mom and Dad moving into a new home yet still remaining connected to the Army at nearby Ft. Meade. She had come a long way from her early life that began in Kiev, Russia. Around this time "Moscow Nights" was written, being initially penned in 1955 then reworked a bit to become what it is to this day. In 1956 the song was recorded for use in a documentary movie. The movie didn't get very far, but the song became unexpectedly popular. The song won an international song contest, and became popular worldwide, especially, oddly, in mainland China as well. My mother had become more than a tad homesick, as you would imagine, by the time she was settling down. Via shortwave radio, she heard the song first via Radio Moscow. A few years later, this undeniably Russian song was recorded by, of all things, a British jazz group called Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, which had a U.S. hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 right about the time I was born. So now this Russian song that made a circuitous trip from Mom's homeland and eventually finding it's way to our shores as a New Orleans-style jazz makeover, became permanently attached to me as well. In 1966, when she figured I was old enough to travel, Mom and I made our way back to Mother Russia, where I was shown off to her family. I actually remember quite a bit from back then. I was very big and strong for my age, and when Mom's mother asked what she was feeding me, she told her I ate a lot of oatmeal. It was then that I was introduced to Russian oatmeal. I think it was more like oats they fed to horses. Blecch! It was also the time I was introduced to Mom's old friend Alyosha, who worked with electronics and I believe was an aerospace engineer. He also spoke English and he and I hit it off immediately. He saw my very early precociousness with mechanical and electrical things, as well as my extreme interest with things that fly. He and I made several forms of paper airplanes, flying whirlygigs and other fluttering, twisting and soaring bits made from paper. By several, I mean lots. Hundreds, maybe more. We tried different things and tossed them from the window of Alyosha's high-up apartment. I don't know how many things were "designed" and flown from that window. but the street below looked like a parade had gone by. Paper littered the area like autumn leaves. Somewhere in La Casa is a Russian kid's book that I used to be able to read quite well from back in those days, though now I can only at best fake a Russian accent. More importantly, inside that book is a paper airplane that Alyosha made for me. Alyosha and I had a lot of fun. Much more importantly, he worked with me using some of his electronic and electrical bits he had at home. He convinced Mom that I had a natural talent for this sort of thing, to the point where he was practically astounded. He urged Mom to have me pursue these interests as my vocation. It was then she realized I was not taking my toys apart just to be destructive, but I was using the parts to make my own versions of my toys. I have vague memories of a lot of things Mom and I did on that trip, which took us not only to Russia, but had stopovers in Prague, London and I believe France. I got lots of interesting toys that may have strained Mom's meager wages, the one thing I remember well was a die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball, which was equipped with all the awesome gadgetry as the one in the film. I wish I still had it (it'd be worth a mint if mint), it was lost or stolen soon after I had gotten back home. Mom's beloved takeaway from the trip was a 78rpm recording of the original version of "Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights)" on the Russian state label Μелодия (Melodiya). That record remains safely ensconced in the record collections here. My life took a turn for the better on that trip, and upon coming back to the states, we began visiting hobby stores, and it was that time I discovered Radio Shack. That, dear readers, was my heaven. As things turned out, a seemingly agonizingly long 16 years later, I took an electronic engineering and test job which was involved in the building of fighter jets and radar systems. Funny that, from paper airplanes and little electrical and mechanical experiments to this. And from Russia with love, apparently.

Fast forward to last Thursday once again. Jeff was suddenly confronted with me doing a total 180 from our happy perusal of dozens of sushi and seafood items to me having a complete breakdown in less than five seconds. It took me a while to regain enough composure to tell him why and to ease his worried look. I was being bombarded with memories too fast to sort them all out, but I began rambling with stories from my deep past. I managed to gather myself up enough to give my order to the now somewhat concerned waitress then sat there awash in pleasant memories. Jeff said it was Mom's way of joining us for our special night. He's right, I suppose, and what better way to make an entrance. We had a very enjoyable meal, and added the little restaurant to our must-go-again-especially-with-friends list. And if the initial shock and aawww from hearing the song didn't make me feel there was something more to this special night, hearing it being played once again(!) just before we were finishing up kinda made it clear.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff.

Hear the music )
greatbear: (zep runes)
It was nice walking into the tiny record store and perusing the new and used stuff inside. Buying the LP of something I got a couple years ago on CD on its release date was throwback-y satisfying. Even more smile inducing was getting the audiophile re-press of a record I had for decades then bought the CD when it was finally released in that format. Better still was buying the new reissue of a record I played to death, giving the worn-out copy to a friend when I saw it was reissued way back when yet kicking myself because the reissue was simply the two LPs stuffed into a single sleeve bereft of the tri-fold jacket, art and lyrics of the original. I had gotten the CD when it finally came out, of course. The reissue on the 40th anniversary brought back the original jacket style and art, plus 180g discs that sound fantastic. Said records became a nice little break as we've been unpacking things, getting the house back in shape and doing other everyday tasks.

I have terabytes of music ripped from my CDs and other sources ready to play at the clicking of some buttons. I can play a small batch of music and not hear the same song for weeks. Many of these are high-resolution tracks that exceed the fidelity of CDs by a factor of four or more. Convenience rules the day. Yet nothing can compare to playing records. I have to get up every now and then to turn the records over or change them lest I be greeted by silence. It feels like an event, an actual performance. There's no handling a digital file and reading the liner notes. There is also the unmistakeable smell of records that can never be duplicated.

Life sounds good.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
So, I've been a rather busy sort for the past few months, as some of you might know. The level of busy-ness began to reach a fever pitch until this past Saturday. It was on that day, under the most beautiful, sunny skies, where Mayhem Acres was transformed into a beautiful garden park, in the company of our most beloved friends and family, accompanied by beautiful music, where Jeff and I literally tied the knot in marriage. Yes, after fourteen years together, through good times and bad, sickness and health, comedy and tragedy, mellow and mayhem, you name it, we did it. We wanted this day to come for the longest time, as hints of civil unions and then legal gay marriage began to show in the US, but rather than go off to some other state (or country, for that matter), we were holding onto hope that the state of Maryland would one day allow same-sex marriage. On November 6th, 2012, MD voters were to vote on a statewide referendum that would allow same-sex marriage to become the law of our little, merry land. Jeff and I stayed awake after doing our civic duties with our eyes glued to the television as the votes were tallied. At about 2am, it had become clear that Maryland had become the first state to legalize SSM through the popular vote and marking the turning point in the fight for marriage equality. It was at that point, with tears in our eyes that we decided to get married ourselves. Our little hopes and dreams blossomed that night, and they slowly began to take shape.

Fast forward about a year or so. We began doing work on the house and yard that had been long neglected because of my ongoing health issues. While we made progress, we ran into roadblocks. Some were serious, like me reinjuring my back even worse than before, and Jeff's parents' house fire. I managed to get back into the grind, albeit very limited, but we kept on doing things. Jeff had nailed down a date that was compatible with work, the weather and the potential for having as many friends and family to join us. Jeff, party planner he is, pulled some strings with a caterer, found a nice florist, we contacted our little, local, gay-owned bakery about the cake, set up rentals for a large tent and tables & chairs. By the middle of spring I had recovered enough to feel like I was actually adding to the process, and in the last couple months, I've been knocking myself out. In June alone I did the most I could with the house and yard. The carport, the driveways, and even the concrete work area in front of the Garage of Mayhem became clean enough to eat off of by the waving of my magic (4000psi pressure washer) wand. I wanted to replace the terrible looking old entry door for years, but with my physical condition being what it was, I kept putting it off. When I tried to order the new door assembly, the lead time was too long by now. At the last minute I threw on a coat of paint and made it look beautiful once again, just in time. Our little wedding had gotten more bells and whistles added on in the last month or so. A DJ. A dance floor. More and more flowers and landscaping. A cellist. Music, music, music. Lighting. More tents. We added so many unique and cool ideas, often from suggestions from our friends. Jeff began to panic wondering if things would work out. Some snags were hit, but most if not all of them came with silver linings that only added to the day. Once Friday afternoon rolled around, and friends began coming in from out of state, our preparations were solidified, anything else that was missed would have no more consideration. It was, as they say, showtime.

I've been to a few weddings in my time, as has Jeff. We didn't want your "typical" ceremony. There was to be no "gods" involved. This was to be a very personal event, one that involved everyone attending. I mentioned in the beginning of this entry about tying the knot. Like so many over-used expressions, this comes from an ancient Irish or Celtic rite also practiced in Great Britain, and has recently gained a bit of a modernized revival as a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan custom. We tweaked it a bit more to make it work within our special day. As happy and uplifting as we wanted our little ceremony to be, there was an unavoidable, deep feeling of sadness about the otherwise happy day. My Mom is no longer here to experience a day she had given up hope early on to witness. Jeff's mum is currently in the ever-increasing grip of Alzheimer's and is just about immobile in a nursing home, unable to see the last one of her children married. As it turns out, both of our mothers had a special love of butterflies. So, to honor our Moms during our wedding day, we incorporated butterflies. Rather than a cake topper with two grooms, a pair of butterflies representing both our love as well as the spirits of our mothers sat proudly on top of our cake. The cake itself was decorated to describe us through our interests and hobbies. The bottom-most layer illustrated the things we each love that aren't common to one another. Me with the cars, tools, electronics, Jeff with sports, cooking and culinary arts. The second layer is something we have in common, yet still different. Music, with Jeff being country at heart, and me being the rocker (and being so before the smarmy Osmonds sung that song). The top layer depicted our love of camping and the beach. Our good friend Doug Poplin honored us during the ceremony by playing cello. I had ordered a "handfasting cord" to be used during the ceremony. We hit a big snag when the supplier of the cord failed to ship the thing and refused to send another. When we talked to our good friend Tim Snider, who was to perform our wedding, of our dilemma, he said other items could be used in place of the cord, including a scarf. I still have some of Mom's belongings, so I took out the drawer that still held her beautiful scarves. After pulling out a couple scarves, we found the one she had which depicted several colorful butterflies along with their scientific names. We had found our perfect solution. At the bottom of the drawer was a booklet showing various ways of wearing scarves. The booklet was titled Tying the Knot. It was almost as if we were being told something.

Our good friend Jim Martin has suggested on a whim that we should release live butterflies during the ceremony at the moment we have been declared married. As with so many other aspects added in, a box of butterflies, a pair of Monarchs for us and Painted Ladies for the rest of the attendees was ordered all the way from California. Each butterfly was contained in a personalized triangular box. These were passed out to everyone during the ceremony. The handfasting, originally meant to be done "a year and a day" prior to actual marriage, was instead modified as a "seal" instead. Doug played an old Celtic piece on the cello at that time. His emotional playing and deft touch made the cello sound as if it was breathing. The music was alive. It had become time to say our vows. Jeff had written his down beforehand. I, being the professional crastinator of epic proportions, never got around to it. I ad-libbed on the spot from my heart, trying to keep myself together. The rings were given to Tim, we placed them on each others' fingers. We were married! I had one more task, as well as a surprise. I directed our friends and family to open the boxes along with Jeff and I to release the butterflies as I told of the significance of this action. Upon release, the butterflies whirled and spun among everyone. Along with the flash of color and motion was an unmistakeable feeling of energy or presence. I stumbled in my words a bit as everyone quietly gasped. Jeff's butterfly stopped right above his head, landing on one of the flowers attached to the gazebo for a bit of nectar before flitting off with the others. I regained my composure enough to finish with the unscripted surprise. I produced an additional pair of rings, attached to gold chains. These were my mother and father's rings. My Mom, during her last days, had asked me if I was going to marry Jeff. I told her that we probably would marry (if he didn't get fed up with me beforehand) if it were to ever become official. She wanted me to use those rings. Well, Mom was always a petite woman, and dad was pretty damn scrawny, so the rings would barely fit our pinky fingers. To carry her wish into our day, we put the rings, on chains, around our necks as our last action. We were now a married couple, with all the benefits granted thereto, with many wished fulfilled.

Now, I am an extremely emotional old sot. I cry at movies, listening to music, and, of course, at weddings. My biggest fear was that I would become a blubbering, incoherent mess for most of the day. Today was so different though. There was so much love, support and surprises through the day. I did lose it when I saw folks I consider to be my adopted family show up after many years and even decades apart. Same with other friends who came to our big day. But I surprised myself. Somehow, probably buoyed by the love, support and help everyone had given me, I kept myself together and enjoyed everything that was happening to the fullest. I did let myself go a few times, when it really mattered. It was wonderful too.

We did lots of planning. Did a ton of work. We hit snags, often at the worst possible time. But somehow, everything fell into place. Perfectly! I was awestruck and dumbstruck at so many beautiful and incredible moments. People began telling us our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and touching they have ever seen, including their own. I have endured so much in the way of bad things in my life. I have lamented on countless occasions that my seemingly bad luck timed to coincide just when things might be looking up had made me unable to enjoy myself. If I were to experience happiness, for sure I would have something terrible happen. For one very special day, however, I experienced the happiest day of my life. Well, my luck being what it is, Jeff had picked our big day many months in advance. It took me a while to realized it, when it was too late to change it. Our wedding day was to happen the day before the eighth anniversary of my Mom's death. But here instead, my luck was symbolic. Yes, I had my sad moments on that Sunday after. But if ever I had a feeling that Mom was with me, it was on that day. In the smiles of friends we both knew for so many years. In the notes of beautiful music. In the seemingly impossible way that everything turned out perfectly. In all of the flowers, landscape, perfect weather, blue skies and beautiful, warm sunshine. And in the beats of a hundred butterfly wings.

Nothing can ever top this amazing, wonderful day.


Thank you to all my LJ friends too. You've been with me through thick and thin. I have hundreds of photos and thousands of megabytes to process. I hope I can share more of my big day with you soon. Much love.
greatbear: (big beard)
Despite still beating down a nasty cold that has lasted over a week so far and now has me blowing and sneezing up copious amounts of snot, escargot and what appears to be Cthulhu's offspring (Ia! Ia! CHOO!), I decided to start the day on a happier note, playing with the dogs, sharing my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with them, and listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 “Choral” in D minor, Op.125. It's been a good morning so far, well, other than the percussionist trying to make the music of the day "Beethoven's Nine Tympani" by trying to get all Metallica with his kettledrums in this particular performance (Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded in Switzerland, 1954). Still, despite the coughing, sneezing, bizarro weather and other issues, it was a nice way to start the day. In my morning online dalliances, I happened to come across a normally annoying captcha that was more in spirit with the flavor of the day.

Thanks, Google ReCaptcha, for making me feel criminally real.
greatbear: (forearms)
Trying to make the best of my unwilling homebody-ness, I've taken the opportunity to do some upgrading of my implements of computing and music, and in this case, there's a lot of overlap. Last year I replaced the troublesome Onkyo receiver with, well, another Onkyo. I have to admit that the company treated me well, repairing the unit twice well outside of warranty at no cost to me. If I had to do it, it would've needed a board that costs about a grand. I got the latest model (TX-NR5010) because it fit a bit better into the overall use I wanted for the home theater, and the old 5007 will become the center of a second system downstairs. All I need to do is haul away a metric cubic shit-tonne of junk down there and reclaim the space. The studio setup got its final upgrade with the Mackie monitors and audio controller. That was years in the making, and I decided it was time to finish it off and begin making the best use of the equipment. A lot of time and a fair amount of money sent on the enjoyment of music. If it seems a bit sudden it's because I honestly feel I don't have many good years left to truly enjoy music as I know it. My hearing is slowly failing, and apparently as my body falls apart in other ways, the treatments for those ailments have a nasty side effect on my hearing. So, rather than suffer in silence, I will keep listening until I can no longer listen. I might go deaf next week, or it will be several years, but that part of my life will apparently have a soundtrack. In addition to satisfying my urges as a long-time audiophile and a (sadly, lapsed) musician by doing this at the homestead, Jeff and I will continue to head off to concerts, shows, performances of all sorts. It is so good for the soul, after all.

I've also taken on the needed upgrades for some of the computers and especially the rather involved network that ties it all together. A few years ago the LAN got upgraded to gigabit ethernet in order to handle the high-definition video and audio flying around the cables, and I eventually began running into problems as to where to keep all this digital goodness. I demoted my main server to file server duties, and today installed a Synology 8-bay NAS to handle both the backing up of the various PCs on the network as well as the main repository of the various media. I threw a pair of 4TB drives in it to start with, and it's running nicely. The NAS has a total of 4 gigabit LAN ports that can be aggregated for a fourfold increase in throughput. The main file server as well as my monster Xeon workstation have paired LAN ports, and I need to add another switch eventually to handle all the cables. I knew I should've gotten more than a 24-port switch. I will get another, similar switch and heap all the high-bandwidth stuff on it, and team two or three ports between switches as a trunk to handle the traffic. It should be able to handle 4K video without trouble. Beyond that, I doubt if I will need much more. Unless the thing becomes sentient and starts making demands, that is.

This weekend is special here in the Land o' Mayhem, and I'm gonna be a happy chappy with having a 4-day weekend with Jeff. It's Groundhog Day, after all, and we do some celebrating. I hope to make the best of it.
greatbear: (walken)
I'm currently sitting in the bowels of Ice Station Mayhem watching the temperature outside drop with every glance at the thermometer. It's currently 4 degrees F, and still steadily dropping. The house is toasty warm, with the woodstove working at near blast furnace levels thanks to the howling winds outside causing the flue to draw like crazy and fanning the fire. I have the electric heater on in the basement workshop where I was prior, and here in the infrastructure bunker the computers alone have the otherwise unheated room at a balmy 84. I don't envy Jeff having to head out in the crackling cold at 5am, the temperature being predicted into the negatives possibly by then, and a high of a steamy 17 for our Tuesday. Brrr! My Russian heritage normally has me tolerating even rather extreme cold, but ever since my first back surgery, it's taken a while for me to regain that tolerance while recovering. Add in creeping old age, and I prefer warmth more than ever. I have another round of PT tomorrow afternoon, so I can shake my cane at Old Man Winter if necessary.

Warning, extreme geekery ahead! Danger! Introspection! )
greatbear: (walken)
What a way to start the New Year here at Mayhem Acres but with a nice winter snowstorm! Jeff had to work on New Year's Day (I always get the earworm thanks to U2 when I see or use the term) as well as NYE, the weekend before, plus yesterday and today, so he had a long week already. On his way home yesterday the snow had already begun falling. Thankfully he got home without a hitch, I had walked the dogs before the airborne crystalline assault began to gather ground troops and we were safely ensconced in wood-heated bliss for the evening. By early morning when Jeff was ready to head off to work (he's critical personnel) about six+ inches had fallen. By virtue of living off of a road deemed critical for emergency traffic (a police station, fire and paramedic department is about a mile-and-a-half away), and this road intersects three major highways, the road was clear enough for Jeff to carefully drive in to work. Once near the hospital, though, it was a different story, ironically the roads right up to the hospital were a mess. He got in without incident, and had an otherwise normal day. I waited until he got home before I attempted to tackle the snow in the driveways and walks, just in case I would fall, get hurt, or have some other unkind fate befall me. I'm pleased to say I managed to clear the walk and most of the driveways before the snowblower ran out of gas. I have maybe a fifteen minute job remaining, if even that, for tomorrow. After the dig-out we headed to the pet store and grocer for our week-plus of food and supplies. It was only after all that work and walking that I was finally breaking down and in need of a rest. All if this without a fall, a sudden burst of pain, a heart attack, shingles, athlete's foot or any other nasty body problems. Go me!

The PT I've been undergoing has been doing me some good. I am quite sore the next day, with enough DOMS to make me feel like I am accomplishing something at the gym. I weight less now than I did as a sophomore in high school. I'm not too concerned about the weight loss at this point since I don't need be be trying to haul a lot of bulk around. Part of the therapy involves electrostim treatments on my lower back. The therapist always comments on how much "energy" I have them set the machine for, apparently more than most people can handle, and I only increase it through the run of stim. I tell her that in addition to 40+ years of working with electricity and having it "greet" me on its own terms countless times, I've been hit by lighting as well. Makes for amusing conversation if nothing else. One of the things I'm going to try for is to get a decent home-use e-stim unit, the therapy does do my body good, and it might also have some, ahem, extracurricular use later on. I still have a long way to go until I can no longer walk looking like a stand-in for Quasimodo trying to imitate the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I'm getting there.

Speaking of working out, weight loss and gyms, Jeff has been going to a local gym here trying to better his health and lose some weight. Earlier in the year he was attending a kettlebells gym. While he was increasing strength and flexibility, it was doing nothing for weight loss, something his doctors were insisting on as part of ongoing work since the heart attack. He found a decent deal that also includes a personal trainer, who not only set him up with specific routines and goals at the gym, but some pretty strict initial dietary guidelines as well. Since starting this about a month ago, he's down a good 14 pounds or so, with obvious changes to his physique to boot. Woof. The two of us will be heading through '14 leaner and meaner. I'll definitely be rockin' the meaner part, as I'm turning into a grouchy old cuss as 52 rounds the corner in less than a month.

I've also been getting back into some studio-oriented work, mostly with "remastering" some of my favorite music and making my own mixes. If I finally get the nerve to try without getting frustrated, I might pick up the guitars and basses here and give the old fingers a workout. I love music, and recent upgrades to the stereos, home theater and digital music servers are part of my getting back into serious listening and involvement with music. My recent setback after surgery with becoming quite deaf in my right ear is either beginning to subside, or I am getting used to it. I will soon upgrade my studio monitors, I was using headphones as my primary monitoring means, and a recent purchase of a different style of headphone hasn't really made a difference in my discomfort in using cans as monitors that has crept in recently. I might spring for that pair of Mackie bi-amped nearfields I've always lusted after. I can crank them while Jeff is away, and resort to the cans for nighttime listening.

As I often do when it snows, I poke my camera lens out the front door and take spooky, available-light shots of the snow falling on the trees in the front yard, so this is my first photo for the new year. Kinda blurry, but it's a handheld shot for a second or less.

Tomorrow, since Jeff is (finally!) home during the day, I might take shots of the dogs frolicking in the snow. Last year, Snickles didn't want anything to do with the white stuff. He'd stand around shivering, picking his feet up one by one and generally be miserable in the snow. I worried this year how he'd handle it, but it appears he's beginning to love the stuff. Kodi was always a snow-dog, he can't get enough of it. Snickles can potentially get around better in it than Kodi, thanks to his long thin legs. He still gets cold after a while, since he's a shorthaired pooch with less body hair than I have, apparently. We have a little jacket to help with that issue.

I hope everyone is starting off 2014 on a good note. I know I am trying to do so, and we'll see how it turns out as it progresses.

N. B. It seems LJ has been lazy with comment notifications with me lately, I didn't realize my last few posts had collected a fair amount of comments until tonight. I'll probably be going into my previous posts and answering some of them. Damn Russians!

Irony Man

Dec. 1st, 2013 09:45 am
greatbear: (forearms)
That old saying that goes "if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all" seems to fit me so well lately. Seemingly unrelated changes to other parts of my body since the back surgery has me a bit more than miffed. In a "good" case, for years after a very nasty sinus infection, my left nostril would be nearly closed up at all times, becoming a high pressure annoyance at times when sleeping unless I used a nasal spray to clear it up on those days it was particularly bothersome. Since the surgery, it's been absolutely clear. How a spinal issue in my lower back becomes essentially a deviated septum is beyond me. I'll take any sort of unintentional victories I can at this point in time. Such celebration seemed short lived, however, after spending a far from insignificant amount of money upgrading my "main" home theater/stereo system in the living room as well as a secondary system I use in my lab for testing as well as pure entertainment purposes (the latter far more often) I have become profoundly deaf in my right ear. I'm hoping this is temporary at best, but if recent history of mine with tinnitus and occasional unbalance is any indication, I am better off listening in mono.

greatbear: (yes)
I posted this video ages ago, but the original YouTube video was long taken down and there wasn't any replacements until late last year. Needless to say, I made sure to save my own local copy. This is Yes, playing "Parallels" from the album Going for the One. Unlike the finished product from the album, or the rather thin, early vocal rehearsal mix included in the recent Rhino reissue, this take shows the band playing the tune more as an energetic instrumental jam with Jon Andersen sitting out. Unlike the Rhino rehearsal/demo take, this one has the glorious church organ at Saint Martin's Church in Vevey, Switzerland, high in the mix. It also demonstrates, by Chris Squire's highly technical playing, this track was originally meant for inclusion in Squire's solo effort Fish Out of Water but was left out because he didn't feel it fit in with the overall style and feel of that record. I love the energy in the room, the guys are playing locked and tight, and "Parallels" takes on a different life as a pure instrumental.

Oh, how I wish the sound quality of this track were better. For its time, this track pushed the envelope a bit for studio recording by utilizing a bidirectional, high-fidelity stereo telephone link feed between St. Martin's and the studio (Mountain Studios, Montreux) to allow real time playing and recording of Rick Wakeman and the pipe organ while the rest of the band and the engineers did their thing in the studio. The resulting album track is a soaring treat for the ears, the organ serving as a constant backdrop for the harmonizing vocals and Steve Howe's practically airborne lead/rhythm guitar before taking the lead later in the song. Synths are cool and all, but you can't beat a bigass pipe organ for presence. I also kinda giggle at this video, since around the time this was recorded, I had about the same hair as Alan White (drums). And the same 'stache. Well, it was the '70s, after all.

This tune, repeated a few times as well as others were the backdrop to my day. It helped make the day better.
greatbear: (forearms)
I know, I'm being a bad blogger, no real content for some time. I've been mostly busy, but not a whole lot of that busy-ness I figured would be post worthy. Let me try and fish up some highlights.

Jeff's college-bound nephew has been staying with us a couple days. In true Awesome Gay Uncle™ fashion, we've been taking him back-to-school shopping. Between the Columbia Mall and Costco, the trunk of the Strat is packed tight with everything from a printer to clothing with a bit of everything else in between. He's excited about his future, I'm happy to play a part in that as, of course, is Jeff.

When I take our proud freshman back to Pennsylvania, I have to pack the car with several big coolers, because dad bought an entire pig (well, the parts of said pig, actually) and is giving us half. Last year around this time while we were on vacation, we lost two freezers full of meat and other foodstuffs when the power was out for about a week. Part of that was meat we had shared similarly in the past. This offering was a gift from dad simply because he has now reached a point in time where he has settled down in his new place since the fire and feels this was maybe some sort of repayment for our efforts during his rough time. Well, no repayment was ever necessary, but this will be appreciated. Mmmm... porkchops...

Since our trailer sustained some minor damage from the radiant heat from the fire, we had coverage from the insurance company to have it repaired. We had hoped to do this before our trip to PTown, but it seemed the outfit doing the work had problems getting all the necessary parts. Wisely, I put off the repairs until we returned from the trip just in case the time in the shop took longer than the week we were initially quoted. I shlepped the trailer up to the shop the day after returning from vacation in mid-July. It is still not finished. Various excuses from wrong parts to health issues. While I was disappointed to cancel our other planned camping trips involving the trailer for the year, I'm now glad I did. This ordeal would've been far more frustrating otherwise. I'm hoping the thing will be done in another week. I'm tired of crashing my knees and shins on the hitch/ball mount still sticking from the back of the truck. I know once I removed it a call would come to pick up the trailer. #firstworldproblems

Years ago (omg 70s!) I used to have a Univox Super Fuzz distortion pedal, back in the days when I was pretty serious about playing guitar. This was a basic stompbox from the mid-late 60s with a limited repertoire of sounds (two filter settings, an overdrive and gain control) and, frankly, sounded like crap by comparison to newer tech in the early 80s. So, I gave it away to a friend who was getting into guitar. He had it for a while and got rid of it too, I think he sold it or gave it away. It's long gone. The other day I came across a database of various effects along with links to ones currently for sale. I looked up some of my past gear, some of which is going for more than I paid for them new. The Univox? People want 700-800 dollars for ones in worst shape than mine was! I think I paid a princely sum of about five dollars for it back in '76. Sadly, I am considering selling off some or all of my axes, amps, effects and other music gear, I haven't played in years. I get frustrated when I try, injuries, age and total lack of practice have a tendency to do that. I was never really that good to begin with, but I had fun while it lasted. Then there is that unbelievable convergence of circumstances that ended up with a brush with some of progressive rock's greatest artists and an inclusion of my random guitar noodling on an actual released album. If nothing else, I can play Six Degrees of Separation between me and most of my rock/fusion/jazz heroes using only a finger or two at most to keep track. I still love music over my other pursuits, but I'm content being a listener these days.

Speaking of luck, I've been working on the fleet of vehicles here at Mayhem HQ, it seems all of them have, in one way or another, needed or are needing rather expensive maintenance and/or upgrades. The truck needed tires before our big trip, plus some PM and upgrades. The Stratus, being a 2000 model, needs some attention too, I have a small pile of wear items that I've been putting off installing, plus it too needs new tires. Even the Mini Cooper is needing attention; though it still seems to me like I recently bought the car, it's over ten years old already and starting to show its age. It hadn't been driven in some time, so I decided to finally give it some TLC and needed repairs. I had it idling in the driveway with the hood open as I fixed the rear wiper and window washer. I turned off the engine and began heading to the house, and I hear hissing sounds. I turn around to see smoke billowing out from behind the engine and then flames. I run and get the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. Seems an oil line from an aftermarket oil catch can had broken, once I shut off the engine the oil leaked into the hot exhaust header and ignited. There was very little damage, luckily, and it took all of five dollars to repair the damage and cause of the problem as well as some time to remove some heat shields and other parts to clean up the remaining mess. This could have been a lot worse. Later that day I was going to take the car to run errands, if the hood were shut and I walked away from the car, the flames would most likely have reached a nearby fuel line and the car would've been toast. So, despite the relatively minor setback, it actually did more to get me thinking about things.

I look at life from both sides now (what, more music? =D). My health isn't the greatest, but I'm still getting on with life as I can. Jeff's parents lost their house, but I am glad his dad was with us and his mom safely in a nursing home at the time of the fire. Dad has a new place he can be proud of, and even though he lost a lot, we are finding some goodies in the salvaged stuff still to this day that might not be much, but mean a lot. I lost my job last year, but I'm in a position where I can go on hiatus and take care of things here while I decide what steps to take. I don't know if I want to get back into the same type of mind- and skill-heavy work I am accustomed to, or something less challenging for my older years. I stay pretty busy here at All That Is Mayhem, Jeff has a good job now that does keep him on his toes, but we manage to get out now and then for fun, friends and culture when we can. We have some cool things coming up to look forward to. I remain very independent and have abilities, skills and the means to give us a good life and not worry too much when something unexpected comes up. As long as I have my health, my home and my Jeff, I think I'll be alright for a long time to come.

Bear stuffs

Jul. 8th, 2013 12:39 pm
greatbear: (forearms)
Here's a silly little video just in time for Bear Week in Provincetown next week, from local artist Tom Goss.

Who else is heading to PTown?
greatbear: (forearms)
The last several days have been interesting, productive, fun and relaxing. Jeff had accumulated some time off from working extra days, and he bundled them around this particular weekend. All together, he's off from Thursday through Tuesday, and our dance card had already been pretty much filled. On Thursday, we headed down to wild, wonderful West Virginia and the town of Cass to ride the restored rail line, once part of a lumber operation and now a scenic railroad. The three of us boarded the train, the beautifully restored Shay steam locomotive chugged to life and we were on a relaxing excursion through the woods and hills of the area. Scenic is definitely the best way to describe the 11-mile journey as the stout locomotive pushed the cars to over 5000ft in elevation in 11 miles. I will most likely post more about this, as I collect the pics and video. Stupid me, I had forgotten to load a fresh SD card into the camera, and I'm still unaccustomed to how fast the memory gets eaten up taking full HD video. I ran out of space halfway into the trip and had to use my cell phone for the rest of the day. We had a great time, despite the 4+ hour ride to and from the area (neither one of use had to drive). We might do this again in the fall when the leaves change, the colors would be beyond breathtaking. I bought some art as souvenirs, there are quite a few unique items made locally by hand, a refreshing change from finding touristy trinkets crafted from Chinesium in such places. The lady who rung up my one purchase was also the maker. Definitely a friendly place on the "must return to" list.

Friday we spent clearing out the rest of the vegetable garden for planting as well as doing other yard work. I also did some upgrades to the truck as prep for next month's PTown trip. We picked up various soil enhancements and I fired up the big Troy-Bilt and tilled the area into a respectable spot and Jeff planted two varieties of sweet corn in that last quadrant of the garden. Jeff was so happy to finally get this done as well. Now we just have to figure a way of preventing damage from the stink bugs and other vermin that have been problems in the past. More research is needed, and I want to minimize the use of chemicals.

We took both pooches to the groomer in Saturday morning, old hat for Kodi but a first for Snickles. While the dogs were away, we continued with the yard stuff a bit and did other things which included a nice lunch devoid of begging dogs. When the call came from the groomer, we picked up our freshly washed pups and brought them home. We cleaned up after a while and headed to the Merriweather Post Pavilion to see the Zac Brown band perform.


These guys can rock, despite their country leanings. A band for pogonophiles everywhere, they played a tight set and kept everyone on their feet. I was blown away by their cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," especially with the lead guitar solo being played to the hilt on the fiddle! We both had an awesome time at the show despite the outrageous prices for food and refreshments. There's not much escaping that folly these days, however.

Sunday Jeff took Kodi with him to Pennsyltucky while I kept Da Snick home with me. While he tended to family business as well as getting the trailer cleaned up and ready for the trip, I worked in the garage on various overdue projects. As is usually the case in The Garage of Mayhem, a simple project took a curvy left turn and became something different. The vegetable garden is surrounded with a 4+ foot wire fence to keep the critters out, and there are four "gate" to get in and out. The "main" entrance has an arbor with a double swinging gate, the other three sides have an opening in the fence to get equipment in and out which has a section of the fence wire loosely hung into the openings. The two side openings are about 4 feet wide, the back one is a bit shy of seven feet wide in order to get the tractor and other stuff though. Hanging the wire fencing by itself was never a permanent solution, especially since we have a big, fat, nearly invincible groundhog that likes to work his way under the loose fencing and get at our goodies. We've both shot at him several times and missed. Time had finally come to make use of the rebar I had picked up earlier to make a frame to attach the loose wire to and make the garden groundhog- (and many other critter-) proof. All I wanted originally was to make a simple rectangular frame by cutting and welding the rebar together, attaching a panel of wire fencing, then placing this on the ground against the openings in the fence. Well, the simple rectangular frame looked rather plain, and given the size of it (80 inches wide, 60 inches high) and its location opposite the main entrance, I decided to make it somewhat of an art piece instead. Here is what I came up with, before the wire fencing is attached.


The fencing will cover the lower 48 inches, with the uppermost divided rectangular area left open. Rather than being hinged, the gate has a pair of spikes that go into the ground and it gets held in place by a couple of clamps. It only gets removed to take equipment in and out of the garden and to deal with weeds. No reason why something utilitarian can't also be attractive at the same time. I have yet to make the smaller side gate frames, those will be simpler, just a square with a crisscrossing reinforcement, and perhaps a rectangular upper panel to match the big gate. I need to extend the fence posts to about seven feet tall, and attach a course or two of wire to keep the deer from jumping in and out. The deer are the worst garden destroyers here at Mayhem Acres, and they keep multiplying. Until it was cleaned out, the southwest quadrant (the bare ground in the photo) had branches and brush piled in it from last fall, and that had gotten overgrown with weeds as we neglected it and worked the other three areas. This had become home to a tiny fawn as Jeff discovered while cleaning. The fawn got trapped in the fence until our dogs began barking and chasing it. Jeff was so close to having another pet.

Jeff will be in PA with dad for another couple days. In that time I have some mods to do on the truck, fluid changes to do, plus cleaning it up. The Stratus will get a couple more suspension parts (lower control arms w/integral ball joints plus front swaybar links) to satisfy my worry that they, like the tie rod ends, might be close to failing. The replacements will have grease fittings and can receive regular maintenance, giving me some peace of mind.
greatbear: (boom de yada)
My email and messages began to light up yesterday evening from people sending me links to this YouTube video. "You're gonna love this", etc. Well, indeed I do love the hell out of this video. It has my two greatest "loves", science and music, assembled in a touching, awe-inspiring combination. And it's all real. Backstory: Cmdr Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, is ready to bid farewell to the International Space Station after being aloft for five months. A sensation in his own right among Canadian science lovers and already a bit of a rock star in his own way, he, along with an Earth-based collection of musicians reworks Davis Bowie's 1969 masterpiece "Space Oddity" as a fitting end to his tour of duty. Definitely must-see TV.

This shows all the incredible things humanity is capable of when they put their collective minds together. I've been in awe of the space programs ever since my early youth. Even though trips into space had mostly become workaday outings that made most people lose interest, I still appreciated all that went into every trip. The recent Mars rover mission proved that there is still a lot of out-of-the-box thinking going on that rekindles that feeling of awe I had as a kid. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
greatbear: (zep runes)
I always make it a point to watch the annual Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts show bestowing the Kennedy Center Honors on very deserving and diverse individuals for their contributions to the performing arts world. This time, the honorees were prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, actor Dustin Hoffman, blues man Buddy Guy, late-night host David Letterman, and rockers Led Zeppelin. Aside from the obvious presence of the honorees, the roster of greats in the respective fields of the recipients is nothing short of incredible. The performances given to each of the honorees not only highlight the peak of each artists' careers, but the mutual respect between them and their peers is obvious and beautiful. This night was no exception. In fact, it was almost magical.

I sat myself in front of the television last night and let myself become completely wrapped up in the show. I had familiarity with all of the honorees, even Natalia Marakova, getting a bit choked up as a number of familiar dances were performed reminded me of Mom and her constant immersion in opera and ballet. I became giddy and amazed at all the performers, as they followed each other during the show. The performances given in honor of Buddy Guy were outstanding, with Jeff Beck and Beth Hart, Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt bringing down the house. I could not wait to see what awaited Led Zeppelin, who were being inducted as a band and with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as individual artists.

Lenny Kravitz performed "Whole Lotta Love." The Foo Fighters did "Rock and Roll." Then Jason Bonham, son of late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was called to the stage, and, well, I'll let the video speak for itself:

Yeah, color me blown away. I hope these videos aren't nuked by YouTube for some silly infringement bullshit. I saved my own local copies.

One more thing. Throughout the performances President Obama and First Lady Michelle are seen thoroughly enjoying each performance, either engaged in the speeches given both seriously and comedic, and completely into the music. They get it. I cannot for the life of me imagine a Mitt Romney and his wooden wife even pretending to enjoy the songs for the scary bluesman or those drugged out rockers. Stairway to Heaven? That'll be a minimum of ten percent of your salary, please. Thankfully, tonight was all about art (of all kinds) in excellence, mutual respect, and a whole lotta love.
greatbear: (Default)
This made my day. Mr. Rogers was a kind sort, his only agenda being one of learning, caring, fun, kindness and thinking. This "remix" is one he undoubtedly would have approved of highly.

Another thing that made my day: Sexy [ profile] theoctothorpe's birfday today!

Go again

Feb. 9th, 2012 03:58 pm
greatbear: (mad rushin')
Once again, OK Go have come up with yet another entertaining video. This one started life a Super Bowl commercial, with only the intro being seen on TV, with a link to see the rest online. The click was well worth it. Embiggenate and crank the volume for best effect.

There is an article in a recent Car and Driver magazine here at the house that gave details on the making of the video, the history of the band themselves, and how OK Go have morphed away from the typical label-slave "indie" band to plying their craft as they do now, as a series of sponsored videos being the main attraction as well as live shows. I gotta give the guys props for making music that is as much fun to watch as listen to.
greatbear: (mad rushin')
Last night was a chance at something different here at Mayhem Acres, especially for Jeff. He had tix to see Dream Theater in DC, playing at the Warner Theater. Jeff got home and napped a bit, we had a quick dinner and then headed into DC. After cussing the usual DC traffic lights and cabbies, a trip around the Obama's place, I popped into the parking garage, found the perfect Mini Cooper-sized parking spot no one else could use (the Smart ForTwo nearby was hogging a full-sized spot all to himself) and we headed in. From leaving the house to getting our butts into the seats we experienced probably the most hassle-free trip to see a show in, like, forever.

One has to consider that I had snatched Jeff from rural Pennsylvania almost 11 years ago, a shy, country music-loving, Republican-raised and exceedingly polite country boy, and I have, well, been corrupting him ever since. Now, I know what Jeff is most likely to enjoy outside of his usual tastes, and, truth be told, he's a little bit more rock-n-roll than he will let on at times. He likes Rush a lot, gets into a lot of the prog and metal stuff that wafts around these parts, and most of the Dream Theater stuff he's listened to he really liked. The only fly in this particular ointment was the opening act, a thrash outfit called "Trivium." Now, don't get me wrong, I loves me all kinds of metal, but the stuff that consists mostly of pissed-off Cookie Monster growling and blast beats does not rank that high. Jeff, on the other hand is like, "what are you getting me into here?" Anyway, the band got on stage, and once they got into their schtick, the two of us were laughing our asses off. I was showing Jeff how to make Dio Fingers and when to present them. We made it through the headbanger session and enjoyed Dream Theater, complete with their new drummer, Mike Mangini. Sadly, we cut out a little early to beat traffic because Jeff was spent from being on his feet since 4am and would have to repeat the same the next morning. A quick scoot home where I poured him into bed ended our diversion for the month. It would have been easier if the show was not running so late. I guess we are both getting old.

One thing for sure, I need to take in more metal concerts. My tinnitis, an often annoying condition that spoils my enjoyment of music (and sound in general) get not only blasted away, but in the peace and quit of Mayhem after Midnight, I could hear so many tiny sounds around the house normally masked by the racket. Completely counter-intuitive. I guess it's the same as taking an old musclecar out of the garage and blowing the carbon out while having some fun.

We can rack up the Warner Theater as another good venue to see various shows. Small place, classical theater architecture, wonderful staff. Tomorrow they play host to Weird Al Yankovic. There's someone that's probably a blast to see live.
greatbear: (forearms)
Continuing my efforts to bring culture to the unwashed masses of LJ (with my usual twists, mind you), I bring you Jacques Snyman singing an (unknown to me) operatic piece. Many of you would appreciate the apparently intentional wardrobe malfunction.

That incongruous feeling in your brain after watching this are its attempts to reboot.

Any feelings further south is y'all's business. ;-)


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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