Sunset concert at Vantage

Fletch and I drove to Vantage Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday morning. I had just been there on Tuesday with Christine and Emily where I led Steel Grill cleanly and followed Bob’s Your Uncle, with one fall.

Fletch and I climbed Pony Keg, Air Guitar, George & Martha, Seven Virgins and Ride Em’ Cowboy. It got so hot we almost fell asleep resting in the chimney after the Virgins route. I walked out into the broiling sun to switch out my climbing shoes for boots but quickly retreated back to the cool shade of the chimney where Fletch and his dog Winston were zoning off.

I brought my second 40 oz water bottle back to the shade. As I took a sip of the almost empty bottle Fletch asked if he could have some,  that he was out of water. He’d brought one quart for both him and the dog.

“Dude, I depend on you to be organized and have extra water!” I joked. Later we hiked out dry through the sage scented air, enjoying the endless views of the mesas and cliffs surrounding Vantage. The weekenders had begun to show up, it being Friday night and our neighbor was running her minivan to power an electric pump for her 10 inch queen sized air mattress.

She had 3 kids who were climbing at the Feathers with her brother, plus a little girl who was still wearing her homemade swami harness made from 1 inch tubular. The full size standing room tent and air mattress made it clear she wasn’t a regular climber. We don’t bother with all those luxuries. Still it’s always great to see people enjoying the outdoors though the droning of the air mattress pump was annoying.

We were surprised to see her suddenly in our campsite holding out two cold beers.

“Hey guys, sorry about my dog and the dumb air pump. Here’s a couple beers for your trouble.”

“Oh, jeez, you didn’t have to do that, but thanks a lot, we forgot to bring beer, this will help a lot!” we said.

She was super friendly and a very fit young mom.  She hung out with us for a while, talking climbing and where we were all from.

“Don’t worry too much about the noise,” I said, pointing at our two guitars, “We’ll be making some noise of our own after dinner. But don’t worry, we won’t play late.”

“Oh, no worries, we’re not going to bed early, we’ve got teenagers.”

Fletch and I had forgot to pack a can opener so I had to jab my can of beans with a bendy knife and saw it open. By the time I’d done that to my tuna and black beans I was so hungry I decided to eat them cold. As Fletch said “Why heat them up? They don’t taste any better and it’s more dishes to wash.”

As we sat there in the fading light, eating dinner out of our cans I got out a small brick of greasy sun warmed goat cheese. Every couple bites of tuna and beans I took a bite off the cheese. Fletch noticed my eating process and commented that we were really living the dirt bag life. We didn’t  have camp chairs, just sitting on boulders strewn around the fire pit.

Fletch the (fire whisperer) soon had a nice fire crackling and we broke out our guitars. We started with a couple songs on which I could add harmonica: “To make you feel my love” (Adele & Dylan) and “Sweet Carolina” (Ryan Adams).

As we finished Carolina, we heard applause and saw 5 of our neighbors lined up nearby, watching us play and soaking in the vivid red sunset over the distant hills above the Columbia River. We’ve worked hard over the last 12 years refining and polishing our sound. We’re far from great musicians, but for a couple of old climbers we have a decent sound.

The brother walked over with his teenage son: “That was awesome guys, I love that song! We really hit the jackpot with this camp spot. Spectacular sunset and live music!”

We thanked him and continued through our usual routine, playing all our favorites as the evening light faded into darkness lit only by our little fire and headlamps. Fletch had seen Elton John at the Tacoma Dome two nights before so of course we played Your Song & Goodbye Norma Jean. We knocked off when the whiskey ran out around 8. I’d only brought a little hip flask…just enough to warm the belly.

We talked quietly for a while after that, discussing all the usual topics climbers yarn about: the meaning of life, hard climbing moves, future trips, etc. Soon the stars were out in all their glory, lighting the way for a half moon.

I crawled into my old Bibler mountaineering tent feeling  thankful for good friends and amazing hobbies. At 65, I know I can’t keep climbing forever. There is an end game coming where my body will start objecting to pulling hard on 5.10 crack climbs. It seems to take a little longer each year to warm up.

I’ve spent 5 days drawing cows with pen and ink. I’ll post them later. It’s more fun to show my drawings in person. When my friends see them online first, their reactions are  muted on seeing them live.  They’ll say: “Oh, yeah, I saw that online, very nice.”

I love that expression of wonder in peoples faces when they see my artwork for the first time live and in person…especially the good stuff. I’ll never sell a cow drawing, but the experience of watching it come to life under my hands is worth all the trouble. There are moments with a great drawing or painting where I can step outside myself and simply stare in wonder. This latest pen drawing might be my best work yet.

 

Harmonica Holder review

HarpArm EZ-Rack Pro Magnetic Harmonica Holder – Review

I play guitar and harmonica together, Bob Dylan style. I’ve had harp holders since 1972. Up until yesterday my best one was a $50 Hohner harp holder, but the screws kept falling out of it, rendering it useless.

I did a search online discovered the new magnetic harp holders. But it was $50. I went to Guitar Center and decided it was so close to my broken Hohner holder that I could do some modifications and save money. Because it was only $24, I bought the Harp Arm Magnetic Mic Stand Harmonica Holder.

I removed the broken missing screw parts from my Hohner, cobbled together some wood and aluminum and built a Frankenstein holder that seems quite good.

MacGyver’d Magnetic cell phone mount

I have wizgear cell phone mounts on my dashboard, but they depend on a plastic ball joint on a plastic neck. My recent vacation driving bumpy dirt roads broke the plastic neck. My solution? Remake the ball joint and neck from 9/16″ aluminum rod.

Painting a violin

Kristi loaned me her violin after our last jam session. When she plays that violin it brings magic into the room. Don’t know how such a small instrument can add so much beauty.

On the painting side, it’s a nightmare to draw. There are countless complex curves that have to be rendered perfectly. And the wood…did I ever mention how hard it is to paint wood? Not to mention the strings, this was the first time I’ve tried to paint ultra thin lines.

I also neglected to think about composition and started with the violin floating on white. All of my stumbling trial and error approach to painting is shown in these photos.

I’m 4 hours into another angle. This time I’m drawing it bigger than life size. And I’m looking down the length of it. The tuning knobs are bigger and the neck is foreshortened. This makes it really, really hard…so hard I had to grid out the canvas, and look at the violin thru my little dental floss grid viewer….pictures to follow.

For hour after hour I stood there trying, and failing, to draw it accurately. If something is life size, I can measure much more easily. I look, measure and draw it to size. But when it’s bigger, there is some mental transposing that goes on after I look. I can’t just draw what I see. I have to draw it larger.

I know this doesn’t make sense. I draw stuff smaller than life all the time. That seems to be easier. Perhaps it’s that when you are drawing something so close you can touch it, it’s natural to want to make it life size?

Alex and his son dropped by for a little ping pong today and I showed them the painting of the family violin. They were impressed.

 

Old friends

Saw Ted today. We met in the 6th grade and have stayed friends ever since. Not counting my cousins, he is my oldest friend. He brought his daughter and we had a classic adventure getting lost at Point Defiance. We walked down to Owens Beach, then West along the water until we ran out of time. We saw a trail heading up the steep bank and started up. The trail petered out and we were lost. Not really lost…though that depends on how you define it. But it got interesting as we picked our way though the forest until a road showed up.

We are going to get together in a couple weeks to jam. We started playing together in high school when 4 of us started a garage band. I was the harp player and Ted played base. We had a rhythm, lead guitarist and a drummer. The drummer had a real job so he was in charge of renting the rehearsal garage. I remember pedaling my bicycle to band practice. We only played a few gigs, but it was lots of fun playing and practicing.

Later Ted and Bob formed a much better band that won a competition in Seattle.  They toured Eastern Europe on a fully funded one month concert tour. We all thought they were on their way to something big…but I think they broke up not long after that. We continued jamming for a decade after high school, but then drifted apart as old friends do. There were a few meetings over the decades that followed but they got farther and farther apart.  Anyway it was awesome to see my old buddy again and I hope we play some live music soon.

I stumbled across a Tedx talk online about a guy who says social media is bad for your career. This runs counter to current thinking, but his speech was so compelling I decided to take a break from Facebook and Instagram for a while. It’s only been two days but I like it already.

His main point was that social media is distracting and keeps you from doing what he calls: “Deep Work”. That is defined as long periods, like 4 or more hours where you are completely focused on one task. For a programmer it might be writing complex code. For a writer it would mean writing non-stop for hours with no distraction. For me as an artist, it means painting steadily for hours without any distraction…at all.

He also argues that a commonly held social media theory is a myth. The theory is that being on social media widens your networking audience and makes you more employable. He feels that getting off social media will make us much more marketable because we will be able to do deep work. And that deep work is so rare that it will overcome our lack of social media presence and bring employers. It makes sense. Multi tasking is a dog that won’t hunt. Deep work is something I’ve always loved. Running a printing press was all about deep work. We’d commonly work 12 hours or longer. Climbing is all about deep work and total focus. I never take my cell phone climbing, and I am happier for it.

Speaking of climbing, V. and I spent 3 days at Squish and discovered a new crag called the Papoose. I’d been there with Bud Miller decades ago but never went back after a runnout scare, until last weekend. There are two lovely 5.9 splitters at the base that we both on-sighted. They were both exceptional climbs and I’m so glad we decided to go exploring on a new crag.

Recent Songs

I’ve been playing guitar and or harmonica about an hour a day recently. Along with regular exercise, it helps me stay balanced. Music is a wonderful gift I got from my parents, who were also both amateur musicians. Dad sang into his 90’s, and mom played the piano.

Here are my recent songs. Finding the  sheet music and chords for any given song is a challenge. The two websites linked here seem to be the current best choice. Both of them allow you to transpose the key. Transposing is essential if you are a beginner, as I am on the harp. I need as few flats and sharps as possible. Plus the key needs to fit my voice and the guitar chords need to be easy. It’s a lot to ask, but those websites make it happen. And for $5.50, the sheet music is nicely priced and instantly downloadable.

Once I get the chords, I copy them into Word and massage them so they are correct, and so they fit on one page. Here are 4 of my most recent songs.

 

bobby-mcgee

bobby-mcgee

 

save-best4-last

save-best4-last

 

candle-in-wind

candle-in-wind

 

my-father-chords

my-father-chords

 

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Made a duet and a game

I learned some filmmaking skills 3 years ago and I like to dust the rust off every now and then. I enjoy the technology and the tools of the trade: DSLR cameras, lenses, lights, clapper boards and double system sound recording.  Editing is also a lot of fun. Making something beautiful that didn’t exist before appeals to the creative side of my personality. Premier is a fine piece of software. I like the challenge of perfectly syncing multiple tracks, and then playing director in the multi-cam window.

In the video below, I set up lights, tripods and cameras, white balanced everything, recruited talent (my wife), performed and recorded 4 video tracks, 2 audio files. Then blended them all together.

The challenging part was syncing the second shoot with the first shoot. They happened a half hour apart, so there was no way to sync with a  clapper board sound. The earpiece I’m wearing is playing the audio from the first take, while I’m recording the second take. I’d never done this before but I think it’s called dubbing. I had to sync the two takes together by looking at the audio waves in Premiere, while listening to the two takes playing simultaneously as layers in the sequence. There were 4 video layers and 6 audio layers. Four of the audio layers would later be deleted as they were from the cameras. But the two Tascam DR-40 digital audio recorder files had to match perfectly with their video files. Long story short, I was able to get the harmonica sound close, then nudge the audio file left and right one frame at a time until it synced, using the keyboard shortcut of Alt + left or right arrow keys.

My other challenge was setting up the multi-cam sequence. It’s too complicated to explain here, but once it’s set up and running, editing  multiple cameras into one final cut is a breeze. A common problem you will face if you try this is that multi-cam window likes to have the audio follow the video. Meaning, if you click camera 3, the sound switches to the audio from camera 3. In double system sound, this doesn’t work, because you delete all the camera audio tracks after syncing, they are low quality.

Instead, you bring in audio from your digital sound recorder, in my case, a Tascam DR-40, which had feed from two real microphones seen in the video below. So I had 4 video tracks, and two audio tracks. When I went to multi-cam window, it would only play the top audio track, which was the guitar and ukulele. It ignored the harp audio track. Even with ‘audio follows video’ unchecked. My solution was to copy the synced audio track from the main layered sequence and paste it into the multi-cam sequence in  a new audio layer. So now I had one video layer and two audio layers, plus I had all 4 videos displaying at the same time, in little thumbnails. All I had to do then was play the video, and click thumbnails in realtime, director style. If you’ve never seen it, go to youtube and search for premiere multi-cam window. It’s awesome.

I also like to listen to music the old fashioned way, by making it myself or with friends. I come from a long line of amateur musicians. Making music was a tradition anytime our family got together for as long as I can remember.  Grandma used to teach piano, but when she became blind in her nineties she still wanted to participate in our sing alongs. Me and my cousin would sit on either side of her. My cousin would sing, and I would play songs on my harmonica, the one in this video. Actually, that 1967 Hohner harmonica got old, so I recently replaced it with a Suzuki SCX-48 Chromatic in the key of C. It is a lovely instrument, but you can be the judge.

 

My Javascript studies are going well. I learned how to build a number guessing game here:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/JavaScript/First_steps/A_first_splash

I’ve got it embedded in an iframe, but if that doesn’t work, here is a direct link. Hint: if you turn on developer tools, I console.log out the random number…so you can cheat.

The tutorial was fun, but as I was working it occurred to me that it could form the backbone of an animated hangman game. I don’t play computer games, life seems to short. But I wanted this game to work, and I wanted it to be pretty.  A lot of what I wanted in the game was functionality that I didn’t know how to program. I found the answers with simple google searches. It is 600 lines of code, including the html, css and JavaScript. I wrote every.single.line.

Here is the game on codepen.

While I was programming the game, I fell in love with a new free code editor called Atom. I like it better than both brackets and sublime. I need to get back to studying Javascript. But if you are curious how I built my hangman game, here is the Javascript code: