In addition to the approaching holiday, which always means more work, I had one of my data centers lose power the other day and the generator barfed. When I tried to manually start it, sparks were flying. It’s a very old generator that came with the building, so it had to be replaced by a new one that periodically tests itself and all that happy stuff. But I’m having to troubleshoot a whole other host of issues that went along with the outage, like how it didn’t get detected until the machines went down when the UPS battery ran out. Turns out I am missing some redundancy I didn’t think about. We actually lost one of the UPSes, and that killed Internet, which isn’t supposed to happen. Either way, I have to fix all this quickly, hence very little time for the blog.
I am hoping someone out there might know something about digital music. I am a person of many hobbies. Sadly, most of them are holes in which money is poured. If I did them all at once, I’d quickly go broke. I tend to get into a hobby very intensely, then put it away for a while and pick up another one until I get bored with it, then continue the cycle. Shooting is a hobby I was very intensely into 2007-2011 or thereabouts. Since then I haven’t really been shooting or collecting much. About a month ago, I decided to revive a hobby I’ve literally been keeping in the closet for the past 20 years.
I was trained in classical piano from the time I was 5 years old until I was a junior in college. Then my mother died, and my grades started taking a nosedive. I stopped lessons with my teacher of, well by that time pretty much all the life I remembered, and just stopped. I had to focus on getting my GPA back up, and I did. A few years later, my piano ended up with my sister, and the synth I had bought with the proceeds
of a summer job when I was in high school got put away, not to be thought about until, well, about a month ago when I pulled it out and set it up to play for the first time since I was in college. Other than having to solder in a new battery to the mainboard, the thing still works fine. Pretty good for a 1991 manufacture date!
I set out with the goal of learning something new. Learning an instrument is not like riding a bicycle. Your fingers forget how to do all that! I could remember nothing of pieces I played for years, so I started new with something new (to me) and simple:
It took about two weeks to memorize it, and then another two to work out all the MIDI stuff so I could use the Mac to act as the synthesizer for a harpsichord SoundFont I wanted to try. The default harpsichord that comes with Garageband sucks (Garageband itself, I’m convinced, is meant only to convince you to fork over $200 to Apple for Logic Pro), and the synth has no native harpsichord sample (though you can construct a pretty convincing facsimile from other instrument samples). I managed to find the open source FluidSynth and a decent Virtual MIDI router for the Mac, in order to fix the key velocity, so it wouldn’t be louder or softer depending on how hard you hit the key (real harpsichords don’t do that).
So after learning this first piece, an amazing thing started to happen. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, neurons started to bring some old files out of storage, and some of my old pieces started to come back without me having to refer back to the music much. I might plod through once or twice, but then something clicked, and suddenly I remembered it. I got through the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata that way, since I learned that when I was quite young. The second and third I learned later, so they are not coming back very much. The third is difficult, and even referring back to the music, my fingers still aren’t up to the task. My non-dominant hand is still partially “disabled” when it comes to articulating piano keys, over what it used to be.
I’ve gotten to the point that the unweighted keys on my synthesizer are driving me batty, and I don’t really want to deal moving and finding room for a large acoustic instrument, so I’m thinking of going digital. I have my eye on a Kawai ES100, but there are no dealers in this area who seem to sell it, and I’m a bit nervous about ordering an 800 dollar piece of gear without first trying their “AHAIV-F Graded-hammer action.” I’ve read good things about it, but everyone is different in what feel they prefer. I’m hoping I have some musician readers who can offer advice. Any at all would be welcome!
Bitter is in Oklahoma for a family emergency, so I’m on my own this memorial day. I saw this meme from someone on Facebook, and boy does Facebook need it:
I never really used to care about the distinction until I got into genealogy. As is the case for most families, I have several soldiers in my tree who died in combat. For most of them, that was the end of their family tree. We remember the surviving veterans because we’re all descended from them, but those killed in action tend to be cousins, uncles, and sometimes even aunts. Most of the time I try to do thorough research on these folks when I find them, as if they were my ancestors. They deserve it, and they never had the opportunity to have descendants of their own that will care decades or centuries later because their lives were cut short in service of their country.
I found I have a first cousin, twice removed, who was part of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment who dropped into Normandy June 6, 1944 and was KIA June 8, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. I found a Christmas card to my grandparents that he sent from Camp Blanding, Florida in 1942, before he was shipped to Europe, and before my grandfather entered service. The card said he was having a great time in training.
My cousin’s name name was Pfc. William McKnight. Even my father did not know of him. My grandfather talked about his war experience only very reluctantly, and even then not much. He certainly did not volunteer anything, including that he had a first cousin killed in the early days of the invasion of Europe.
My apologizes for the light posting since I’ve returned from Annual Meeting. I’m working on a deadline to get a report done for a client. So far it’s looking like 20+ pages. Probably more by the time it’s all done. It’s good to have clients with lots of problems, since that’s how we make a living, but since this requires me to write all day, it kind of saps all my writing energy for the blog. I’ll have several news stories and a news dump once I get some time. It’ll be an epic news dump. The tabs are quite constipated!
For the past year, I’ve been on the hunt for bottles from my 4x great-grandfather’s bottling business, so I’ve been to a few antique bottle shows. I had no idea antique bottle collecting was really even a thing until I discovered I am descended from one of the larger Philadelphia bottlers. Today we went to a show just north of Baltimore to see what we could find.
I’m generally surprised by how similar they are in look and feel to a gun show. Standard gun shows are a bit more of a commercial enterprise, but if you’ve ever been to a decent gun show that caters to collectors, an antique bottle show is more like that. There are people who specialize. I seek out bottle collectors who either specialize in Philadelphia bottles, or who have large numbers of them in their collection. One guy I saw specialized in poison bottles. I’ve discovered that it’s a local market. You wouldn’t generally expect to find a bottle collector from Georgia with a bottle from Philadelphia, though I do check. Most bottle collectors source new bottles by digging privies, which of course is different from how gun collectors find their guns. I doubt many people dropped their roscoe down the shit hole after squeezing off a fresh one, but they did that with bottles a lot.
Demographically, the shows are more similar than you would think, bottle shows also feature a plentiful percentage of middle aged and old white guys (racist!). Bottle shows seem to have more older women than gun shows, but gun shows seem to have more young women. I’d say there are also younger men and families at a typical standard gun show. Though, I can see why someone might not want to bring their kids to a place where there’s a lot of fragile valuable things.
I doubt I’ll ever be a true bottle collector, but I can see the appeal. I didn’t think at any time that the guy who collects poison bottles did so because he wants to poison people. It’s a shame there are some people on this planet who don’t give the same consideration to people who collect firearms.
Had to spend a good part of the day shoveling 9 inches of global warming off the driveway, so I don’t have to get up in the wee hours to do it before getting off to the office. In truth digging the cars out, then scraping the layer of ice off the windows, took more time than the driveway. It sucks when snow follows rain.
Where’s Al Gore when you need him?
Inspired by (Disney’s) security theater, Leatherman will be bringing a “wearable multitool” out this year. I feel for the guy who designed this; one of the minor annoyances of being a low-level road warrior (3-5 flights a year) is not being able to bring my own Skeletool with me. I’ve seriously considered buying a pack of the cheap $2/unit in bulk at the local home despot to be able to drop one in my checked luggage and not care too much if it doesn’t make it past baggage handling. This won’t fix that annoyance completely, since it won’t have a blade, but the “cutting hook” would deal with most of what I actually use a blade for (opening packages without having to use my teeth). And, of course, the most important tool, the bottle opener.
OTOH, the fine folks at TSA will probably make something up on the spot to “ban” this…
If the lack of posting this week hasn’t given it away, I’m taking a holiday off from the blog, probably until Monday there won’t be much on here. It’s not so much a break from the blog, but a break from having to follow everything, which is really most of the work. Sometimes it’s just relaxing to take leave of the RSS reader and bathe in the blissful ignorance.
Christmas time was down in Nashville with Bitter’s family, but we took a route through Southern Virginia to do some genealogical research. Then on the way back from Nashville we spent two days in D.C., one day at the National Archives, and the second at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library. I have most of my family back to the boat. My mom’s side was easy to research, because they are all recent immigrants, except two lines. One line are technically recent immigrants from Canada, but they ended up in the land of snow and beavers because they were Quaker loyalists on Long Island who were kicked out after the Revolution for supporting the crown. The other is possibly tied to a Colonial Delaware family, but I’m not making any headway on proving that.
My dad’s side, on the other hand, has four Revolutionary War Veterans, and one additional patriot who paid supply taxes. There are also four Civil War veterans, one with the 71st Pennsylvania Vols., two with the 29th Pennsylvania Vols., and one with the 1st West Virginia Vols. All were Army of the Potomac, though the 29th was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland later in the war and participated in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea (sorry about that, to any of my Georgia readers).
Researching colonial lines is difficult, requiring old fashioned research in libraries, and careful examination of historical documents. Ancestry.com isn’t of much help for people prior to 1800. Fortunately for me, my entire family stayed in Philadelphia, which makes it easier than it is for Bitter, whose family moved every few generations. I managed to gather quite a lot of clues at the DAR Library from a compiled index of Philadelphia church records from 1644-1780. I feel I don’t have very long to get back to the boat, since I’m starting to get back to the time period where the only people in the Delaware Valley were Indians, Swedes, and Dutchmen. William Penn didn’t arrive in the New World with his charter for the Province of Pennsylvania until 1682. Whether I have ancestors who were original settlers of Pennsylvania will be difficult to prove or disprove, since Penn’s passenger manifest from his first voyage did not survive.
Yesterday afternoon, my best friend from college met Sebastian and I at the DAR library since she knows she’s DAR-eligible, but doesn’t really know much about that family history. It was handy that she brought in the insignia from various family members so I could easily look up their numbers, and it was amazing to see the men who she can call 6th great grandfathers. Two of them were part of the Lexington Alarm.
Yup, my best friend from college actually descends from two different men who were part of those shots heard round the world. As Sebastian put it, she can actually say she’s from a family that used firearms to defend their guns and ammunition from being seized by the government. It’s really quite amazing the risks they were taking at the time.
In her family, the son of one man married the daughter of the other, and I don’t find that surprising at all. One of the first tips I see in researching Revolutionary War patriots is to look for more of them in the in-laws. In my research, it’s very common to find that families actually engaged in supporting the cause tended to see their kids marry. I guess when you take such a radical position on something, your family tends to find other families who are just as passionate.
Yesterday, I found notes on a distant cousin’s application that showed one of my ancestors served under his future father-in-law. I’m not sure if the marriage was before or after the shared military service yet. I also found through these notes that a woman I believe to be my 5th great grandmother is considered a patriot in her own service because she defended her house during a British attack over their attempts to get the ammunition that was being stored there.
I know that genealogy of someone else’s family isn’t high on the reading list, but it really does remind me of something Sebastian said a while ago. At some point, a personal family history is your country’s history.
Sorry for being offline the past couple of days, but doing the family thing this week so posting will be a bit light. To all who celebrate, Merry Christmas to you and your family, wherever you are. But wherever you are, I’m sure you’d probably rather be in Hawaii, so Merry Christmas the Bing Crosby way: