Monday, March 31, 2008

Recombinant Bagpipe Genetics - It's Alive!!

I haff combined a bagpipe vit a box off kitty litter und gotten a bagpipe zat clumps even vit multiple katz!!

I had to use my resources for this one, let me tell you. Dennis sketched out the basic steps and gave me the equipment and said, "Call if you need help." But the little hoses didn't seem to want to stick onto the drones, and why should I take the drone stocks (the part that fits into the holes in the bag) out anyway? I would break the bag! So I made a quick call to a supplier of piping stuff, and they got a piper on the line who 'splained it all again to me, and assured me that yes, they really do fit on there, you have to really stretch them, you really do have to take the stocks out of the bag and the bag sort of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s out, and the drone valves (which do my strike-ins and cut-offs faster for me) are NOT attached to the drones like the old ones were, but to the box of kitty litter. (Thank you, Steve at Midwest Bagpipe Supply! After I got this straightened out, I went to work. I got the drone stocks pulled out and connected to hoses, taped and reinserted, but then I couldn't remember where the 4th hose went, and I had 2 choices: the chanter stock or the blowpipe stock. The chanter stock was tied in with some sort of waxy string which I didn't really want to retie. Hmm. What to do.

I noticed the other hoses went to orifices where air was blowing OUT of the bag. The blowpipe stock would have air coming IN, and the chanter stock would have air going OUT. I suspected it would be the chanter stock, but I called Dennis anyway and asked him, just to make sure. I was right. There followed a lot of untying with a fork so I wouldn't cut the string (cuz there was no more string, and the knot was too small for my fingers alone) and attaching hoses and then taping them up and reinserting them blah blah blah blah blah blah

Anyway, once I got the right hose clamps to attach over the sticky radiator tape (I got the ones that are too small) I can put the bag cover back on. I've played them and they sound just grand. I tuned the drones and adjusted the drone valves so it's just like I like them.

Another one of life's little victories.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Andrew had nothing to help me.

And I suspect that the sort of moisture control system that I have has been machined by Dennis himself, not purchased from Ross, because it requires removing all the stocks from the bag, adding the hoses, and then re-tying the bag back into the stocks. The pictures on the website all show clear plastic hoses, whereas the hoses I have in my little plastic bag are black.

I hate to give in to Dennis.

I'm going to try to do this on Monday/Tuesday and if it doesn't work, I'll pass the box of random parts to him, and probably a twenty, and say "I have to leave the state would you finish this and be sure to put in the drone valves here are two different kinds I can't play without drone valves I've tried."

Chronically tired.

Friday, March 28, 2008

You can tell from the date that even yesterday it was spring.

We had a blizzard.
It's funny how a few months changes your attitude about snow. Back in November if it snowed, I was excited because it meant Thanksgiving and Christmas were just around the corner and everybody was going to come home for the holidays. Yesterday, although we need the moisture, I was not happy to see those puffy white flakes come floating down. Driving down. Sideways.

By the time I came home from work (albeit 15 hours after I went TO work), it was all melted and was sunny and early spring chill again.

In piping news, I got a Ross cannister moisture control system last night. The pieces. Dennis explained how to install it, asked me if I wanted to leave my (McCallum) pipes with him (at his McMaster factory) and have him install it (Ha!) and then said if I had any problems, call him. I may just have to call him. This installation will involve sticking a small octopus inside a larger octopus, where neither octopus is willing and cooperative, using hose clamps and radiator tape and other such stuff. Do I get a nurse to assist me? I wish I could find somebody else who had a couple of hours to help.
Think I'll go check out Andrew Lenz's website, Bagpipe Journeys ( It always is plumb full of information. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Uncle Melvin died last week. His funeral was yesterday in Layton.

We were selected, due to our proximity to the funeral, to represent the family.

The last email we had from the family said they would send another email with the address of the church where the services were going to be held at 11:00.

We got everybody up and dressed and were off by 10, but despite Handsome Husband's exquisite directional sense and ecolocution skills, we could not find the chapel. He even bought 2 newspapers and looked in the obits to get an address, but Great Uncle Melvin wasn't in there any longer. I was ready to give up and go home, but Handsome Husband decided to give it one last try, and went to the library to look online. It took a lot of looking, even for him, but we finally found an address. Of a chapel, not a residence.

This is where I would have been lost without either a map-and-compass, or Handsome Husband himself. Well, OK, he did have a map. Online. Not something we have the technology to take with us in the car. He looked at the map, knew instinctively which way north was and thus which way to turn on the streets we were presented with, and got us to the church only 25 minutes late. But it was a long funeral, so we still got to hear an hour's worth of what a great guy Great Uncle Melvin was. And he really seemed to have been a great guy. I was sorry I never met him.

Afterwards, there was a luncheon provided by the Relief Society of the ward (bless their hearts) and we talked to several family members who noted our attendance and rattled off whatever parts of genealogical charts were required in the conversation. Some people could go through the whole thing, with kids, grandkids, their spouses, where they were now and what their profession was, or what they had died of and when. They also took pictures, so we have proof for the rest of the family that we were there. Duty done, and we got a free lunch.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Silent Movies

Yesterday was one of those 19 hour days. Work, plus picking up kids, plus dyeing eggs, plus getting kids set up for an evening without parents, plus a drive to Provo, plus a silent move (The General with Buster Keaton), plus a drive back to SLC. Then I had to get up at 0200 today and drive in to work and do another 10 hour shift.

I won't bore you, but let's just say if it was foggy on the 20th, it was a blizzard on the 22nd!

But let me tell you about silent movies.

First thing they have is "entertainment". For us it was a couple dancing the Charleston. And a brass band playing some music from the '20's. Then we had a sing-along of songs that have been around forever. ( I knew them all.) At least since 1926.

Then, the silent movie.

OK, there's no sound coming from the film, that's true. That's why they're called "silent" movies. But there's this big organ in front, see, and the organist plays all the way through the whole movie, music to fit what's happening on-screen, and music designed to make you cheer or boo or hiss or laugh or cry. They gave us a little practice session before the film actually started, where they'd play music for the heroine and we'd have to make the appropriate sounds, and something for the villian, etc. It was at a University, so I'm surprised they didn't flunk us and kick us out, we were so dismal.

But then the movie started, and the music sort of carried us away into the story. That whole audience was cheering and boo-ing and laughing and hissing and crying and applauding til you could hardly hear yourself think! It was a blast! It was more fun than a circus. I wish we did movies that way now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yesterday passed in a blur of fatigue.

I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny and mild, horsetail clouds all over the sky. A good day to go outside and learn to ride your bike or do some gardening or fly a kite or take a walk with your dog.

Some days I can be awake my whole 16 hours; other days I shuffle through with eyes half-open, seeing everything as a blur. Yesterday was a blur day.

Today is not looking to be much better, as much of it as I can see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I had a "gig" to play on St. Paddy's Day.

OK, it was at the local elementary school, so not a paying gig.

After the parade on Saturday, we all received STRICT instructions from the PM to take apart our pipes, including the drones, to let them dry out. This I did. (see previous entry) This presented a new problem when I was getting ready to go to the school: when put back together, the drones would be out of tune. Not a shadow of a doubt there. And no PM handy to get me in tune. Wah!! I didn't have a lot of time to mess around, so I got my tuner out and clipped it to the drones, one at a time, and got the little light to show green in the middle, instead of red to the left (flat) or red to the right (sharp). They sounded OK with the chanter, so I didn't have to mess with that, but I think the higher notes were flat. I couldn't get the chanter off, once applied, due to the PM's ministrations on Saturday, so I just left it.

I tuned my pipes!!! Sort of.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

After all, he was justified in being so concerned, was Jason.

Let's talk science, here (and there is an amazing amount of science involved in piping: physics for blowing, sound wave and air pressure stuff for tuning--stuff like that). Human breath, which is what is generally used to play pipes, is generally warm. In the 80s or 90s F. March 15, 2008, SLC, was cold. In the low 30s F. If you blow warm, moist air through a cold tube, all the warm moisture that comes in contact with the tube condenses out into actual liquid, as oppossed to gas. For a more easily accessible example, look at the outside of your toilet tank on a hot day in July. All those drops of water on the outside is condensed water vapor from the hot air that has come in contact with the cold porcelain of the tank.

Inside a bagpipe, if you have liquids condensing, it stops your drones from working smoothly. It also sends you careening out of tune, both in drones and chanter. This is why most pipers install a moisture control system, to catch all that moisture before it has a chance to mess up the exquisite tuning you and/or the Pipe Major has been working on for weeks/months/years on your drones and chanter.

As I said before, I do not have a moisture control system.

It also struck me that I've never played these pipes in a parade before. I bought them in October '06, after the '06 parade season. During the '07 parade season, I only played 1 note and that was on the bass drum. So this was a baptism for these pipes. Not by fire, it turns out, but by water.

As I also mentioned, it was cold. If you don't keep blowing warm air into the pipes to keep them warm, they go out of tune. So we stood there for 90 minutes, and played tunes every 5-7 minutes. There was an amazing amount of condensation inside bag, drone, chanter . . . My drones went out of tune, as did my chanter, and the drones would stop playing during the tune, off and on. And of course I was standing next to Jason, who heard everything. After every tune he was back adjusting my reed or my drones or something. Finally I said, "I don't want to stand next to you any more." He laughed and said it was a good experience, a baptism by fire, to stand next to the PM. It was a horrible mess.

To top it all off, I used up all my lip strength keeping the pipes warm, so that when we stepped off in the actual parade, I could hardly keep the bag inflated.

You try blowing into a tube really hard for 90 minutes and see if you have any lip strength left after.

I have been looking into the cost of a Ross canister moisture control system (plus drone valves). It's gonna cost me about $145 before shipping. Yuck. I also have to get Kinnaird drone reeds, as my EZ-drones 1) are not long enough to stay in tune with the new chanters we have, and 2) do not stand up to the pressure of all that liquid. Kinnairds cost about $145 as well. Here are their qualities:

Kinnaird's unique curved carbon fiber tongue produces in a vibrant, rich cane sound. An o-ring bridle is used for tuning adjustments. Fine tuning can be done using an additional adjustment screw. These reeds are incredibly steady and require very little maintenance.

We're talking $300 here, with shipping if I order this stuff online. On the other hand, I won't have the liquid problem DISASTER I had on Saturday, and I'll be able to play both tenor drones, instead of just one. Luckily March has 5 weeks so I get an extra paycheck. And I'm working lots of extra hours this week and next, in trade for hours people are picking up for me when we are in NC/SC the first week in April.
On the other hand, the rest of the parades we have this year will be played in hot, dry weather.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kitty Litter

I got a call last night. It was Jason, the Pipe Major. He told me to microwave my kitty-litter.

You think this needs a word or two of explanation? You are perhaps wondering why the Pipe Major would be concerned with the hygiene of my cat on the night before a parade?I will explain.

Inside the bag of modern bagpipes is usually a boxy sort of thing, about 4x5x1", with plexiglass tubes connecting to the drones and other orifices of the bag. It is a moisture control system. You may be able to visualize why a moisture control system would be installed in the bag of a bagpipe, which is played with much blowing, and the inevitable drool. Inside the boxy thing is something quite similar to kitty-litter, although hopefully much cleaner, which absorbs moisture, similar to kitty-litter. That is why in the trade it is called kitty-litter. I, being the cheapskate that I am, do not have a moisture-control system installed in my bag. I just open the bag up every so often and air out the insides. Thus, no kitty-litter. So I did not have to microwave anything.

I emailed work last night to ask them to give me a short, early job as I would be leaving at 0730 for the parade. Then I went to bed. I left home this morning at 0230 and drove the 17 miles in to work and everybody asked me why I was there. That's gratitude for ya. I mean! Seems they sent me an email right back saying since I was only working 4 hours I could work from home. ha. I did some quick math (or as quick as I can do math at 0300) and figured I couldn't get home in time to log in for my shift, so I stayed.

Stay tuned for the next update about the St Paddy's Day parade and any subsequent St. Paddy's Day activites.

Friday, March 14, 2008

No, no comliments. At least none that I heard. I was late.

No, we did not do massed band tunes. Jason had us go over the 6/8's and the 9/8's. And Clumsy Lover?!? We didn't do too badly, but I still have trouble with that last bit.

I'm trying to work out how this 2/4 march, Lady Lever Park, goes without having somebody play it for me. Not sure I have it right. Hopefully I can find it in iTunes so I can get an idea.

Everybody was tired last night. I'm still tired today. Had to come in to the center because my computer wouldn't work.

I hope Daughter #1 knows to pick up the kids.

Email. It's a wonderful thing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What with one thing and another, 24 hours passed.

The next 24 might be more exciting. I'm trying to get some time off to go to North and South Carolina in April, and that will include moving a piping gig at Small Son's school, and moving a court date. I'm going to try to do those today. Also scheduled for today is the first lesson after the concert. We are actually marching in the parade on Saturday, so we will probably go over massed band tunes: Green Hills / ((in my head I call it: After Battle Triple Chocolate Cake) When the Battle's Over, Farewell to Nigg, The Mill set, probably our two MSR's, Minstrel Boy/Wearing o' the Green, Heights of Dargai and Battle of the Somme, The Smith's Set (The Smith's A Gallant Fireman/Killekrankie/Scotland The Brave), maybe even 100 Pipers and Blue Bonnets. I feel pretty confident about them all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm sorry. I know it's been 3 days since the concert and I haven't posted so you would know what had happened if you hadn't been there for whatever reason. I try to stay away from the computer on my days off. So they really ARE days off. From the computer.

Well, anyway, you have to know ahead of time that Friday night I couldn't sleep. I was waiting for Daughter #1 to call for a ride home from work, and when the phone rang I thought it was the alarm and got up and started dressing before I heard Handsome Husband answer the alarm . . . er, I mean the phone. So I went back to bed, but I only had an hour left. I went to work and worked my 10.5 hours, then went home and made sure my stuff was laid out and went back to bed to catch 40 winks. But I was so nervous I really couldn't sleep..

Mostly, I just lay there with my eyes closed and worried about the tunes.

At 1630 I was on my way to Highland HS. I got there only seconds before PM Jason, and people started showing up thick and fast after that. We warmed up, did tuning of chanters and then drones(the one with the hair is Pipe Major Sean. He's making up for PM Jason, who by his own admission has a five-head--more extensive than a fourhead)and then gave a bunch of money to Aaron's mom (Aaron is the 6'7" piper whom I am standing next to in the warm-up picture) who went and got us pizza and we ate that and hoped we wouldn't puke it into our pipes due to nerves.

Standing behind the curtain in the dark in our two lines, listening to the 2 or 4 pipers coming down the aisle, I was praying I could get through this with no problem, especially Blue Bonnets. And then the curtain went up and we were on!

Kind Jack had taped the sets were were playing on the first row of seats in huge letters so for the first half I just went tune by tune, and getting them set in my head before we even started. and I DIDN'T LOOK AT THE AUDIENCE!! That messes you up every time. Plus the lights are extremely bright and will burn out your retinas or some awful thing.

So I played 4 sets in the first half, and 3 sets in the second half, 2 of which were playing with the Grade III! I did mess up a couple of times on the easy, Battle set, but in the 2nd halfwhen we played Blue Bonnets, the hardest one for me, I breezed through them both, no problem!Afterward we played a couple sets in the foyer, and then the drum corps was asked to play their salute . . .That side view of the tall guy in the center background with a beard like Abe Lincoln is my baby brother, and he's talking to me there, I'm sort of facing the camera. He's almost bumping his head on the ceiling, he's that tall.
The concert went marvelously. PM Jason's goal was to pull off a perfect concert, and it mostly was. The pipers rocked (mostly) and the drummers really rocked. Practice was cancelled last night so I haven't heard Words of Praise yet. I'm very happy with how it went.

Friday, March 7, 2008

C minus 2 days and concert, where C=concert.

Last night at the group lesson, Jason wanted to give me a new, easier reed. He said he could maybe play one tune on my reed and then be too tired (not his word) to go any further. He said he has a much easier reed. I said, Maybe that's why you make it look so easy. (appreciative laughter) I also said I appreciated his offer, but I didn't want to change ANYTHING right before the concert because it would royally mess me up. So I have my old, hard reed until after the concert.

The worst part of this is that I don't have time to practice on pipes at home any time before the concert. I do have 2 additional practices before then, but I was hoping not to make any stupid mistakes (see yesterday's entry) even during band practice. I have to work on strike-ins. I got a lesson on that last night. Again I say, some people make it look so easy. Jason was holding his pipes out away from his body and talking and all the while the drones were droning . . . It was like he doesn't even have to come into physical contact with them to make them play, they are so well trained!

My Dumb Dog, the 18" high blonde one, jumped our 48" high fence last month and ran up to a man and his dog and barked at them. He called the animal police, who wrote me a ticket. I have to appear in court. The officer told me to call (this number) and check to make sure my case is on file, and she gave me a court date. I've been calling them every day since it happened, and still they do not have my case on file, but the Prosecutor's Office said show up anyway and show them the paper that says I have to be there Monday morning 0830, and if there is no case, maybe they will throw it out.

what fun i can hardly wait

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I was so entertained by the comments on that last entry that I forgot to do new entries!

It'd be nice to forget last night's practice, too, We were going over combined band tunes. If there is one set that everybody knows so well they are sick of it, it's the Mill set, comprised of The Old Mill, Mari's Wedding, Killikrankie and Pipe Major J. K. Cairns. These are the first tunes anybody learns in this band, and we play them ad nauseatum because everybody knows them. However! There are 2 versions. Version One is the Competition Version, which starts on E and then jumps into the first tune, and you play right through all 4 tunes without stopping. Version Two is the Parade Version, which doesn't have the E at the beginning but jumps right in at the D of Mill. Anybody who plays the E gets The Look and/or severely chastened. The other difference is that in the Parade Version there is a break after Mari's Wedding for the drums to play their 4 measures of tics and tacs. We are playing the parade version for the concert, so that's what we practiced. I remembered about no E, but I completely forgot the break. So I was the only one playing--wrongly--during the drum break. I got The Look, and the Severe Chastizement.

PM "Were you watching me?"

me "Yes."PM "Did you see me step out?" (stepping forward 2 steps and then back signals the band that we are going to stop at the end of the current section)

me "No."

PM [shakes head in disgust]On the other hand, I played the battle tunes (also known as the 9/8's) with the full band last night. I was the only one of the Grade IV on my side of the stage who played. Both the other Grade IV members standing by me told me I'd done a good job. I accept all compliments!

We didn't go over the 6/8's, which is harder (for me) and longer. No more weeks to practice: the concert is in 3 days!!

I have to go over the Mill set and our Grade IV Medley. I didn't majorly mess up the medley, but I did mess up. Lesson tonight, 'nother band practice tomorrow, 'nother practice Saturday, but I don't want to mess up even in the practices!

My editor has told me that it's either one exclamation point or none. I just want to say this is cramping my style.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'm still flying from Wednesday's practice.

Good thing, too, cuz I had to skip Thursday's lesson to attend a RS meeting at the Stake level, and my lip is still swollen and sore, although not as bad as it was that first Sheep Dog Trials ('06) when I played for 3 days straight with a poor grip on the blowpipe.

Small Son has been tootling his PC after lights-out, which is bad for sleep but good for practice.

At the Stake RS meeting Thursday, when I introduced myself, one of the Stake Presidency asked, "Are you the one whose daughter is . . . um . . . . brilliant?" I admitted I was, thinking in my head how Daughter #1 would chuckle when I told her. Then they all joined together to tell me about a letter Daughter #1 E wrote to a soldier in Iraq to accompany some fleece blankets and pj's we were making to send to injured US soldiers so they didn't have to deal with those rather revealing hospital gowns, or the army-issue wool blankets. They were all tearing up in the telling. I got them to send me a copy. It is brilliant. Well. Here's some stationery if ever I saw some.

"We must have fifty sewing machines going in this building. We'd have more but we ran out of power strips. We have everyone, from four-year-olds to great-grandmothers, sewing and cutting and pinning and tying and ironing and writing.
"It's a silvery-gray day here in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's the first rain we've seen since fall. There's silver light coming in through the clouded-glass windows and pale gold light coming from the florescent light fixtures in the ceiling of the gym. The sewing machines are whirring in fits and starts, making the thread spools rattle on their spindles. And everywhere there's a murmur of women's voices. They're talking about their jobs, their kids, the seams they're sewing, this funny thing that happened one time, this delicious jam that so-and-so made from her cousin-in-law's peach trees. It's a little cold in this big room; we're all still in long-sleeved sweaters, knowing that winter isn't quite over yet. It's five minutes to two.
"So why am I telling you all this? It's partly because I want to fix the image in my memory, to refer back to if ever I need to smile. It's partly because someone put a piece of paper in front of me, and the only thing I know how to do with a piece of paper is to cover it in description, however pointless. But it's partly because I wish you were here, whoever you are and wherever you come from. You could pull up a chair, and watch the little kids run screaming by, and have a slice of that pineapple-coconut bread with so-and-so's raspberry jam. (Delicious) You're a long way away from Salt Lake City on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and I wish you didn't have to be. You probably wish it too. But here's a little piece of us, along with our thoughts and our love, though these things are feeble thanks for all you've done and suffered. So be warm, be safe, and come home soon to the people who love you. Which now includes all of us.
God bless and keep you.
Rose Park North Stake
and Rose E. Hadden
23rd February 2008, 2:00 p.m.
Salt Lake City, UT"

It has been a joy and an honor to be her mum. Stay tuned for bragging about Daughters 2 and 3, and Small Son in later entries.