Long time no see

Discussion on Saturday confirmed that, while members of the Binghamton Morris Men danced in Syracuse on the 2000 and 2014 tours of the American Travelling Morrice, the last time the BMM appeared as a team in Syracuse was in 1991 at the 10th anniversary ale of Thornden Morris. Twenty-four years away!

That was before Clark’s Ale House opened the first time. We really should do this more often.

My hazy recollection is that on the Saturday of that 1991 tour, after a stand somewhere downtown, the Binghamton Men wanted to run through Lichfield Vandals — I think they were going to dance it at the next stand but wanted to give it a dry run first. Some of the team had gone off somewhere, though. Probably a pub. So I got drafted to fill a space in the set… despite not knowing any Lichfield. I think maybe Tom Keays was pulled in too. Anyway, that was the first time I danced with the BMM. Second time was about 11 years later.

And unless I’m very confused, it was the next day of that same weekend that the Pokingbrook men were depleted in numbers, so Bill Newman approached me and asked, “Do you know Ducklington?”

“No,” I told him.

“Okay,” he said, “you can dance third corners.”


A leisurely few days of aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggghhaaaaaaeeeiiiiiiieeee

Last summer somehow most of the things I wanted or needed to do didn’t conflict much. This year is being more difficult.

So the SoLID collaboration meeting ended up being Thursday and Friday, not Friday and Saturday, so that was good, but I still had to get back before the rest of the weekend’s activities. That plus cheaper tickets meant flying into and out of Norfolk, VA and driving from there to Newport News — during rush hour, both ways. I lived. I did speak at the meeting, briefly, about my simulation work on the PVDIS baffles.

Making my flight back required me to leave Jefferson Lab before things wrapped up Friday, but I didn’t miss much of significance to me. Waze told me to get off I-64 for several miles and back on just before the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, which kept me out of the worst of the Interstate parking lot. The flights home, like those to Virginia, were amazingly non horrible and I got back around midnight.

The plan from there was: First Syracuse Rocket Club launch of 2015 Saturday morning, morris tour Saturday afternoon, 20 mile bike ride Sunday morning, and Heather’s commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon.

The forecast for Saturday didn’t look too great, too much mention of rain, but in fact, at least where I was, we got no more than a light five minute shower in the early afternoon. I got to the field around 9:00, helped set up, and got two, count ’em, two rockets in the air before it was time to boogie on out and head for downtown. At that I missed the first dance stand, but I met up with the Binghamton Men, Thornden, and the B. F. Harridans for beer and lunch at J. Ryan’s, followed by dancing at Hanover Square, beer and dancing at Mully’s, dancing at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, dancing at Perserverence Square, beer and dinner at Clark’s Ale House, and dessert at the Hosmers’ house.

It was pretty great.

Excellent weather today, and I went off to the first Cycle in the City bike ride of 2015. North to Onondaga Lake, south to Webster’s Pond, and east and west in between to various other bodies of water. 20 miles total. Then home, change, lunch, and off to the Civic Center for SUNY Upstate Medical University’s commencement exercises where Heather got her hood denoting an MPH degree. Kenny and I had dinner at Panda West before heading home.


.@Anagramatron classics VI

More from Anagramatron:

  • What up good morning = God I’m gonna throw up
  • His memorial is today = I miss him already too
  • Swear I’m at the wrong school = How come Hogwarts isn’t real?
  • Oh, so it’s nudity week? = Outside with no keys
  • Stoned boy watching anime drinking tea = I didn’t know ignoring me can be that easy

Music by the inch

I suppose I’m also a Doctor Who heretic, in that I’ve watched only about three or four stories from the years of the first two Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton) and regarded them as… well… pretty bad. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but to reiterate: There are those who would disagree vehemently, but I thought those early episodes were poorly done in almost every aspect: writing, acting, directing, editing, camera work, costumes, and of course special effects.

By the time Jon Pertwee came along as the third Doctor, they’d apparently either learned a lot or hired people who were better at it. The show was greatly improved in all those areas. Except maybe special effects.

(It also was in color, which even if all else had been the same made it much more watchable. Good rich, sharp monochrome is fine, but for 1960s-era blurry low-resolution video, color definitely made it easier to figure out what you were looking at.)

Now, was it really all bad? No, and I’ll tell you what I liked: The music. Most of the title and incidental music in those days was written by Ron Grainer and it was splendid. Or anyway it was a lot of pre-Moog electronic music, done by the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alternating with orchestral music making heavy use of bass and/or contra-alto clarinet, and it had me at “hello”. Now, the show’s use of that music was as bad as everything else, but the music itself, great stuff.

Which is why I enjoyed this short new video talking about how the theme music was first recorded: one note at a time, with oscillators and 1-track tape recorders and a whole lot of splicing tape.

Uphill both ways. Get off my lawn.

Are we home?

I suppose I’ve always been a heretic to the Star Wars faithful.

I loved Episode IV, A New Hope, when I saw it in June of 1977 — back when it was just Star Wars. Loved Episode V when it came out too. I merely liked Episode VI, though. The Death Star II, I felt, was Lucas acknowledging he’d run out of ideas. And I didn’t like the Ewoks. Too cutesy by half, and their treatment was patronizing — one could even say racist. Racist against a fictitious race, granted, but does that really make it okay?

I’ve never minded Lucas’s later tinkering. They’re his movies, not yours or mine. I liked the new creatures on Tatooine, liked the restoration of the Han/Jabba scene in Ep. IV. Hayden Christiansen as Anakin’s ghost in VI was a mistake, but not one I get worked up over. And I do not care the slightest, least bit who shot first.

Worse yet, I basically enjoyed the prequels. In fact at the time I thought Ep. II was better than Ep. VI. Maybe I’d feel differently now. Hard to say, since I apparently didn’t enjoy them that much: I’m pretty sure I never watched any of them more than once, long ago. I’m not sure how much I want to see them again. Maybe I’ll try the Machete Order between now and Christmas.

Jar Jar was annoying. He was meant to be; that was the whole point. And you have to keep in mind Lucas’s target audience always was 10 year olds. Okay, arguably Jar Jar was a miscalculation even for 10 year olds. But anyway, I’ve always thought the hate rage was a serious over-reaction.

The whole concept behind the prequels, the depiction of Anakin’s becoming Vader, always struck me as an intriguing and challenging idea. I hoped Lucas could pull it off. In the end I didn’t think he did. But I didn’t hate him for trying.

The books, the comics, the animated TV series… didn’t pay any attention to them.

When Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney, I did not regard that as good news. I have extremely little respect for the Disney corporation. I won’t say their output has been entirely worthless… but most of it hasn’t been worth much. As for J. J. Abrams, I thought his first Star Trek movie was pretty good. (Seeing Nimoy as Spock was worth the price of admission alone.) I haven’t yet bothered to watch Into Darkness yet, though.

“Pretty good” isn’t good enough, of course, especially not for Star Wars. Given the iconic status of the original trilogy, and given the disregard for the prequels, anything short of magnificent for Ep. VII is going to be disastrous. Given Disney, and given Abrams, magnificence seemed too much to ask.

Probably still is, but I have to admit, I’ve liked the trailers. It certainly looks like Abrams is making a good effort at returning to the kind of storytelling in the first trilogy; not so much with the CG droid armies, more with the individual humans. They look like characters you can care about, more so than Anakin and Padme.

(It also looks like the central characters are going to be a black man and a white woman — a distinct improvement over the white male centric look of the first six movies. Yes, there was Leia, and she was a major character, but certainly second fiddle to Luke and Han. Nonwhite characters got even shorter shrift.)

And seeing Ford as Solo will probably be worth the price of admission alone. And Hamill and Fisher, yeah, yeah, come on, it’s Ford as Solo we all want to see, admit it.

(Hmm, first Nimoy as Spock, then Tom Baker as the Doctor, and now Ford as Solo. We’ve really had the trifecta of trotting out the old SF fossils, haven’t we? I’ve loved it.)

So, okay, some good signs. It might be pretty good. It even might be magnificent. I’m not letting my hopes run away with me, but I’m allowing myself a little bit more optimism than I had.

Abolish water

I got back from Costco this morning and went to put a case of bottled water in the basement, and I discovered that was kind of like coals to Newcastle.

I like our basement, mainly because it stays dry. Not the air, there’s a dehumidifier running almost nonstop in the summer months, but the floor: we’ve never had water on the floor from rain or snow melt. I think this is the first place I’ve lived since the 1980s for which I can say that (given that our apartment in Newport News didn’t have a basement).

It doesn’t stay dry, though, if the plumbing is leaking.

There was water there this morning, and it didn’t take long to discover it was coming from a 15″ flexible line on our water heater. I’d been to Home Depot once already today, in the plumbing section in fact (buying CPVC elbows, why do you ask?); fortunately it’s only a mile away — I even considered walking there, but decided getting there and back sooner would be a good idea.

So I bought a replacement line, and a roll of Teflon tape, because every time I go to do any plumbing I can’t find the Teflon tape I bought the last time. There are, I am confident, 182 rolls of the stuff somewhere around here. With Kenny’s assistance I got the old line off and the new one on, not leaking, in about fifteen minutes. Go me.

Then I mopped up what water I could on the floor, but… part of the basement is carpeted. And when I say carpeted, I mean I presume a previous owner replaced the carpeting upstairs, and threw it down on the basement floor. It’s old and it’s dirty but leaving it there was  a lot easier than not. And like I said, the basement doesn’t get wet.


There followed a certain amount of furniture moving, and carpet lifting, and hoping the water thereby liberated would flow away from and not towards the remaining, still on the floor, still under furniture part of the carpet, and finding out no, it was flowing the other way.

So now… well, the good news is, next time this happens, there will be less carpeting to get wet.


CPVC. The C stands for clarinet, or chalumeau… (part 5)

So here’s the goal: An instrument with eight holes (for left thumb and fingers 1–3, right fingers 1–4), preferably sounding the following notes:

Hole Note Freq (Hz)
LT B♭2 117
L1 A♭2 104
L2 G2 98.0
L3 F2 87.3
R1 E♭2 77.8
R2 D2 73.4
R3 C2 65.4
R4 B♭1 58.3
End A♭1 51.9

or, if that isn’t feasible, a probably easier fallback:

Hole Note Freq (Hz)
LT B♭2 117
L1 A2 110
L2 G2 98.0
L3 F2 87.3
R1 E2 82.4
R2 D2 73.4
R3 C2 65.4
R4 B♭1 58.3
End A1 55.0

The first of these is the pitches produced by the finger tone holes (and one of the R4 levers) on a contra-alto clarinet. The second shifts the semitones from L1/L2 to LT/L1 and R1/R2 to L3/R1, where they’d be easier to obtain, and changes R4/End to a semitone to keep the End note in the scale. But I think the “standard clarinet” option is worth a try.

I’ll work from bottom to top, because adding a tone hole above an existing one hardly changes the note produced at the latter, while adding a hole below an existing one makes it flatter. Start with smaller holes and enlarge them if needed. Probably best to start with a “lower joint” made of elbows but just let a straight pipe stand in for the “upper joint” at first. Once that’s in good shape perhaps glue the “lower joint” together, unless it seems feasible to leave it dry-fit, then build and tune the upper joint.

First things first, though, which is: given the mouthpiece effect noted before, I need to decide what mouthpiece I’m going to use. Tone holes set up for one mouthpiece will be wrong for another. I have several B♭ soprano clarinet mouthpieces, as well as one each for E♭, alto, and bass clarinets… and a baritone sax mouthpiece I picked up cheap back in 2005, just in case I had a use for it. Theoretically you don’t want a big mismatch between the diameters of the mouthpiece and the instrument, and even the E♭ mouthpiece is wider than the tubing I’m using. But that little soprano reed really struggles and it’s hard to force enough air through the small mouthpieces for such low notes. The alto works better. The bari sax mouthpiece has an inner diameter similar to the alto and also works okay; I think I like the alto’s sound a little better, though. But what I’m happiest with is the bass clarinet mouthpiece. I took a 1/2″ CPVC coupler, put about 3 wraps of electrical tape around it, stuck it on a tube, and pushed it up into the mouthpiece. That way the air column really “sees” rather little of the mouthpiece’s volume and diameter; that can’t hurt. IMG_3659It looks crazy but it blows easily and sounds good. Part of that might be the reed. On the other mouthpieces I have old cane reeds, long neglected and not exactly in peak condition. On the bass I have a Legére plastic reed, which you can sit on top of for a year and it’ll still work just as well the moment you try to use it again. I know from experience. (It had slipped down under a cushion.) I thought I had a Legére soprano reed, too, but I haven’t found it. I should check the sofa. But anyway, I think the cane vs. plastic aspect is not the main factor here.

Bass clarinet mouthpiece it is, then.


or, Wallpaper paste must be good for something

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