Thursday, April 08, 2010

If you didn't believe that I was crazy...


The things I do to fill me time, eh?  Today, I decided I'd like a nice, bassy shakuhachi...  I went with 3' of the left over piping; it was waaay too hard to make a note and kept hitting harmonics, so I scaled down to the longest shak I've heard someone repeatedly make - a 2.6.  It played a note!  Great!!  Now, where the feckles do the holes go?  I used http://www.mujitsu.com/howtomakeshakuhachi.pdf for a really awesome guide, and just like that, it played in tune!  It's in G#, to be precise!  Magical.  It actually sounds pretty nice, but you have to take it slowly with the notes, kind of letting them warm up... it's not responsive like the one I made on Tuesday! Have a listen... sorry!




I then had another tiny bit of pipe and no joints left, so I thought, "why not make a mini one?".  So I did.  It's official size is a 0.5 (only 15.5 cm - lol), but guess what... it's in tune as well!  G# again... freaky.  It's got no second (Kan) octave, though, unlike the bassy-one which always wants to jump right out into the upper-register where it plays responsively at last!




It's very interesting, this shakuhachi flute-making malarky!  Wee oop!

Here are some piccies and sounds!



Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Shakuhachi Crazy!!

I think I've gone a bit (more) mental.  Y'see, I've got this problem...  I'm addicted to musical instruments; I always have been.  Anyway, I recently decided to buy another Shakuhachi, which is a type of end-blown Japanese bamboo flute (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakuhachi), from a NY-based maker, Perry Yung.  I say "another" as I already own an "Earth" model flute by him, so I know my next one will be lovely too!

The wait was just too much for me, so I decided to make my own while I waited.  It cost me a grand.... (lol, just kidding)... total of £2.99 (and I could make at least 3 more the same for that price), and only took just over an hour and a half to get the stuff (some pipe and a joint) and make it!  Pretty good, eh?

I'll probably get round to blogging all of the instruments I've made/own eventually, but I can't be bothered just yet so it's just this one today.  I call it my "Crapucrapshi".  Hehe.  It's actually not all that bad...  have a listen.  BTW...  I simply couldn't be bothered to spend all day recording something nice and adding reverb etc, so I just plugged in a camera-mic and played some rubbish, so don't expect anything lovely... lol.  Enjoy...





Sunday, February 28, 2010

We might have been from the good food guide...

Lucy and I had a brilliant day yesterday!  Apart from the evening power-cut and some family-related downers, that is, but  I shan't bore you with here!  We went to Avebury and then Salisbury to have a look at some stones and logs.  Check it out: http://kipperfrog.blogspot.com/.  


Today's rock climbing, so we figured we should get up, chillax for a bit, buy a new chalk bag, have some lunch, potter around the shops looking for a new Iphone case for Lucy, and then go home for a bit before we head back out for our climbing sesh.  It started off so well, but then we went to Harvester in Salfords...

Harvester is crap.  I won't ever go there again.  I hope no one I knows ever goes there again, and that because of this, they then shut it down because of that 6 degrees of separation thingy...  Anyway, here's why it was sooo crap.

1.  Shoddy welcome.  The exact words were "Sit here for me", rather than the usual, "follow me this way please,  Madam, Sir.  Please take a seat", as they pull the chairs out for you...  A great start to customer services.  The waitresses name was Farrah, I believe.  This is an excusable start and wouldn't have been worth mentioning if it wasn't for what followed...
2.  The food is what followed...  The help-yourself salad bar was looking very un-delicious.  The green things weren't green, rather a pale-yellow, just like the red things, funnily enough!  The sweetcorn was dried out, yet watery at the same time.  Very tasty.  Not.  Again though, this is excusable; what do you expect from a free salad bar?
3.  The main course killed it for me.  The fresh garden peas were not fresh.  They were yellowy-brown again, just like everything else, and were so overcooked they were almost mushy peas.  The chips were lumpy and soggy at the same time, and the beef (an 8oz rump steak) I ordered well-done was burnt to a cinder.  There's well done (soft, tender, juicy, a little pink right in the middle, but definitely no blood), and there's a lump of charcoal.  I had the latter.  And it wasn't even hot.
4.  Lucy had a similar experience, and her piece of salmon was waaay dry and again, black.  Apparently, it tasted not unlike beef that's been burnt until it tastes like charcoal.  Nice.  I'm sure the grill was really clean.
5.  When we tried to pay, things go even worse.  The lovely, polite, and ever helpful Farrah was nowhere to be seen.  For 10 minutes.  The other waitresses/waiters etc. just ignore you.. they're not going to get your tip, so why bother, I guess.  We got out of our seats with our coats on to wait by the tills for another 5 minutes.
6.  When Farrah did at last show up, it was to seat another family.  She simply said, "move to the side, please", before hurrying the next family into place, and then scurrying off again.
7.  When Farrah next turned up, it was to take Lucy's money.  I feel bad about this, but I was refusing to pay.  Lucy didn't want me to be quite so harsh and just wanted to get out of the place, so stubbornly, but still reluctantly, handed over the card.  I bought some chocolate to try to make up for it a bit...
8.  The machine wouldn't work.  "Come with me", Farrah said as we both had to walk over to another till, while, instead of apologising for the various complaints I had about her service and the food, she blamed almost all of it on other people before saying everything was fine and that the clearly disgusting open grill was only just cleaned.  I wish I had that on tape with a photo.  It was grim.

Harvester Sucks.  The Hornbrook Inn and the Rajkumar in Horsham are wonderful, the service is brilliant, and we'll never pass them up for Harvester again.  Even Frankie and Benny's in Crawley is nicer than Harvester.  In fact, I think Burger King and MacDonald's do better meat than Harvester.  And in McDonald's, they apologise.  Can you believe the service is better in McDonald's than a supposed family restaurant?  Neither can I.  Please don't go to Harvester.  Ever.  You have been warned.  ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wowsers!

I've been sooo busy with work and hobbies lately, so I've been neglecting the blog big-style!

Anyway, aside from work, Lucy and I have been rock climbing a couple of times each week, swimming, and walking a lot, too! We've even had a bike ride here and there, and a few trips to London, National Trust Properties, and English Heritage Sites! Blimsters!

Climbing's been the main vice, though; it's almost become an obsession! There's this entire mysterious world of language, technique, and even culture to get your head around, but it's a fantastic community, a bit like the fishing community; you know, really friendly, welcoming and helpful. It's a lovely sport to do!

I thought I'd include a quick guide to getting into basic indoor sport-climbing, if anyone's interested:

Step 1: Find a local wall/community. Try http://www.climbfind.com/
Step 2: See if you like it! Do a taster/beginner course. If you like it, this is what you'll need next...

Equipment: (See http://www.bananafingers.co.uk/ or http://www.v12outdoor.com/ for online buys, but I'd advise trying gear first; there's usually a shop at most walls)

We got a discount after we completed a beginner course, so the whole lot of what I'm about to list came to about £120 per person, but the only things we needed each where the harness, shoes, and chalk bag; the other stuff is better shared as only one person can use it at once anyway!  You'll need a partner as well for vertical roped-climbs, but for bouldering problems, you'll only need yourself, the shoes, and the chalk.

This is what I splashed the cash on:

Harness - Black Diamond "Blizzard" - My 36" fat-boy waist needed the large, it's a perfectly centered fit.





















Rock Shoes - La Sportiva "Katana" - I wear a UK size 10 street shoe, these are a UK 8 rock shoe...















Carabiner (HMS/Pear shaped, screw-gate) - DMM "Sentinel"





















Belay Device - Black Diamond "ATC"





















Chalk Bag and ball - La Sportiva "Katana"





















Get/make a ground anchor if there's a big weight difference between your partner and yourself, from a short length (we went for 3m) of rope with another pear-shaped, screw gate carabiner tied in at the harness-end with a double figure-eight knot and a double fisherman's stop knot, and fixed to the floor with a more adjustable clove-hitch on a D-shaped carabiner hooked into an anchor point. You should also stick an overhand stop-knot on the end of the loose end.

You'll also need some sensible clothes as anything too tight and un-stretchy will restrict movement, but anything too baggy will get in the way...

How to tie-in and belay:

This information is EVERYWHERE, but I'll stick it here anyway for completeness.  Dunno why the ratings are so bad on these vids; I think they do the job even though they're in American instead of English... lol





Go to http://www.animatedknots.com/indexclimbing.php for guides on how to do all the knots described in this post and the video above!

For technique tips, grab a copy of Neil Gresham's "Improve Your Climbing" Masterclass series, and for inspiration, check out Dean Potter or watch "The Sharp End" by Sender Films.  That'll show you a LOT more than just indoor climbing, but I mustn't bore you any more!

Indoor sport climbing is just the start, but I think that'll do for now!  Go try it, it's great fun!! :)

The dream:

Monday, January 04, 2010

Psycho-Bro (and family)

In case any one here was in any way in any doubt that my entire family is mental, here's a nice little video my bro, Will, and the folks put together...  I'm kinda proud of them...  Is that wrong?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Time!!





















WOOHOO!!  Christmas time ROCKS!  Without sounding like a Grammy acceptance speech, I'd just like to say thank you so much to all my loved-ones, family and friends, that made Christmas so special this year.  It was an awesome few days, and I hope everyone had as nice a time as we all did.  One little point I want to make that I found really pretty heart-warming is that Kipperfrog and I went to midnight Mass this year on Christmas eve, in really quite a big Church, and it was wonderful to see the sheer number of people that turned out that are still thinking about the real reason why we celebrate Christmas in the way we do, and trying to live better lives and be good people.  This had to be the same pretty much country-wide, and it makes me glad!  Nuff said. :)

New Year next!  2010, here we come!  HooRAH!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SKY...















I usually rave about how great my Sky subscription is...  And it is!  The selection of channels is great and the UI is awesome.  The only gripe I have is when it goes wrong...


You see, a couple of years ago, we got sky+ installed.  All was well until, one day it just stopped working.  We rang Sky, and they sent a bloke over 2 weeks later (!) who did absolutely nothing.  Fair enough; they didn't know that we needed a heights-specialist team.  Nevertheless, I was irritated by the wait.  I was even more irritated with the fact that I had to wait another week before the heights team showed up.  Anyway, the problem was solved by putting the dish up a pole, and all was well.  For a month.

By the way, even when they "fixed" the problem by adding a pole, they said that "ideally, the dish should be just under the apex of the roof of your house; they should've put it there in the first place so that that hedge over there didn't block it out when it got thicker in the Summer".  I guess they just couldn't be bothered to move it, then...


About 1 week out of warranty, which was also about 2 days after Sky asked me if I wanted to extend my warranty (which I refused), everything stopped working again.  After going through the reset-process for the umpteenth anger-making time (they insist you take the steps even if you just did them 5 minutes ago, which I hate, and then they do nothing), the out-sourced (read as "crap") team (on 08442411411) finally agreed to call someone out to me.  At a cost, of course.  They continued to charge me for my viewing as I waited for another MONTH for my HD upgrade to be ready so they could come and fit the thing.  (I insisted on an HD box as the call out charge for the sky+ box would have been the same as buying and installing an HD box for a new customer).  They also hung up on me when I asked to make a formal complaint about the procdures and lack of cooperation/politeness.  I was apalled, and ended up writing to james.murdoch@bskyb.com; an address I found hunting on forums...  His secretary called me back that very day, was very polite, and everything was finally sorted and compensation was given, so I was happy and stayed with sky.  I would've rather that it had been fine in the first place, though.


So, we're into Sky+HD warranty now.  *phew* No charges for call-outs = good.  We had some stormy weather a couple of weeks ago and our dish was blown out of alignment.  It's swivelled on the pole...  I called the heights team out (Custom Group - 08456125555), but they were so busy, we had to wait 2-and-a-bit weeks for them to finally arrive.  Kipperfrog worked from home (she says) to wait in for them, and despite promises of calling to arrange a time-slot the day before, they never bothered, even on the day.  Nice.


And guess what... one bloke, and he wasn't a heights specialist.  Day-off wasted.  Rearranged for Saturday when 08000512592 rang up.  Not this Saturday, next Saturday.


This really isn't good enough, Sky!  That's why this is now public.  I feel another complaint coming on...  Oh, and if they just tighten it on the pole again, it won't be just a complaint they'll be getting... (it's an idle threat, but I just wanted to say it, so don't anyone be offended and phone the police or anything; the worst they'll get in real life is £20 less a month when I leave, and maybe an anonymous turd through their letterbox...)

If you're from sky and you want me to remove your logo, just ask and it shall be done.


One last thing...  If you're Sky dish/box is busted and you live in a poor-signal area, http://www.tvcatchup.com/ is a great place to watch free, live UK TV without hassle.  And BBC iPlayer's pretty sweet, too.