Monday, June 12, 2017

The Problem With Weddings.... Sometimes they are depressing affairs

My set of RG Lawrie bagpipes, with an RG Hardie chanter. Still making noise the Scottish way.
As one may tell, I haven't posted an article on this blog for a while. It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about, just nothing exciting enough to make me want to post anything.

The weather has been so-so... But it hasn't been super cold, so I'm not complaining. Work has picked up, as has my novel writing.

MW DXing has been a bust, basically. I tune the AM band every night and hear the same 300 or so stations.  I won't complain, though. As I work on my writing projects I tune the Sangean PR-D5 and get a great mix of South Asian (Indian) movie music, pop music, and classical music on KVRI 1600 every night. In fact, the past few weeks, I have kept the radio tuned to 1600 AM, and listen to the South Asian music booming south from Bellingham (about 120 km north of here).

I'm bored with anything else, listening wise.

Although I am a musician, I haven't touched anything musical in probably two and a half months. I have a relative who is staying with me, recuperating from an injury, and the only place they can sleep is in the same room where my guitars, amp, and stereo are -- it dampens any chance of cranking the amp and playing guitar.

Me playing the bagpipes a few years ago, many pounds heavier, and at an Uncle's funeral in June, 2011.
BAGPIPES
I did pull out my bagpipes last weekend, however. I have a cousin who got married on Saturday.

When I was a kid I really didn't enjoy weddings. I don't know why, but I just never liked them much.

Now, as I get a bit older, I like them less and less. Being a single man at a wedding where everyone is all lovey-dovey just doesn't roll well with me. The plus side is that if it's a family wedding, they want me to play Amazing Grace on my bagpipes, which I actually enjoy doing.

I've played the bagpipes off and on since the 1980's, when I learned from one of the best local pipers, a Pipe Major named Angus Ironside. Angus learned from Donald MacLeod, one of the bagpipe greats (if you get a chance, check out his recordings -- he made the Scottish pipe tunes sing).

Angus had a band, and after I got my full set of bagpipes I was basically drafted in -- not that I was complaining about it. In fact, it was fun. We competed at Scottish Highland Games in places like Tacoma, Everett, Portland, Bellingham and in Santa Rosa (California), and we marched in fun parades like the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival and Stanwood Pioneer Days.

Playing in the Clan Stewart Pipe Band was one of the best times of my life.
Pipe Major Angus Ironside, way back when.
When my father died, however, my enjoyment of piping nosedived. Since then, all I did was play at family functions and the odd birthday party or whatnot.

This past Saturday my mom and I went up to a church north of the Snohomish County border and attended my cousin's wedding. I took my bagpipes out the previous evening and fired them up. They worked fine. My cat hated them, though. She kept running over and pawing at me, complaining.

I guess she thought I was under attack by some strange looking, very loud octopus.

Surprisingly, the pipes worked very well. See, bagpipes can be cantankerous. In the days of all natural, cane reeds, they were a pain to keep in tune. Any change in temperature or humidity (even from blowing air into them) could throw them out of tune -- and sometimes the reeds would cut off.

Then the powers-that-be invented plastic drone reeds (the "drones" are the three pipes hanging over the shoulder, that put out one constant, droning note) -- instantly, the plastic reeds made life a bit easier. And finally, they invented plastic/synthetic chanter reeds (the "chanter" is the higher pitched pipe that plays the melody). No more pitch changes, and no more squeals or cut-offs. No sooner than I got my first synthetic chanter reed, playing the pipes turned from hard work to a pleasure.
Me playing at my aunt's house, some time in the 2000's.
So after playing a few marches, a couple slow airs (Amazing Grace, The Skye Boat Song, and My Home) -- and disturbing my kitty cat -- I tossed the pipes in their case and tossed the case into the trunk of my car. The next afternoon I drove up to the wedding.

The pipes played well, for what it's worth. I played the standbys: Amazing Grace and Scotland The Brave. For a while, when I needed a respite from the happy-dappy pop music at the reception (I was in a mediocre mood for some reason), I went out and marched back and forth in the nearly empty parking lot, playing an old competition tune which had garnered me a second or third place maybe in 1983 or '84: The Siege Of Delhi. I played it several times, and played it OK. Then the rain started dripping, but I kept playing, because it felt great. It was a terrific mood-lifter.

That tune, and another march, Dundee Military Tattoo, are probably my favorites to play.

I would have played The Siege Of Delhi inside at the reception, but a) nobody would know the tune, and b) because I hadn't played the pipes in over a month (I had a recent bout with the flu) I would have run out of air before the tune was done.

Playing at a neighbor's birthday, sometime in the mid-to-late 2000's.
GOING HOME : A BAGPIPE JOURNEY
I have a sentimental but fun romance story about bagpipes on Amazon Kindle eBooks, which I placed under a pseudonym: the eBook is called "Going Home: A Bagpipe Journey". It's a story about a guy who rediscovers the bagpipes and finds a lost love at the same time.

The eBook is listed under my pseudonym James Fenamore Blake. The eBook has a pic of my bagpipes on the cover with a green background (the same picture as the one at the top of this blog post). Its sale price is 99 cents US.

Why did I use a pseudonym? Because the only book I want under my real name is the children's Christmas book (Woody The Woodchuck Saves Christmas) I wrote several years ago. It's a personal reason, I guess. The eBook (and my upcoming novels) have some rough language in them, and I would rather not have the same name on the novels and eBooks that is on the Woody children's Christmas story.

I chose the pseudonym as a partial joke, combining the names of two famous authors, the classic American author James Fenimore Cooper and famed British poet William Blake. The misspelling of "Fenamore" is intentional. I am 99.9 percent certain that I will use the same pseudonym for my other works of fiction.
Me playing the pipes at a friend's sister's wedding, with long hair, during better days perhaps.
As I write this, my day's work is done and I'm listening to the CBC on 690 AM, coming down from Vancouver B.C. Canada, on my Sony ICF-38 (a great AM DX radio and probably a terrific disaster or emergency preparedness radio).

It's raining out. And why wouldn't it be? It's Seattle.

Here's hoping your Spring (or Fall, if you're in Oz) has been good so far.

CBC
May 15th, 2017


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A PART OF MY CITY HAS DIED


Early this morning, as I was listening to Coast To Coast AM on my GE Superadio III, George Noory suddenly played a piece of the Soundgarden hit "Black Hole Sun".

Wow, I thought, they're adding Soundgarden to their bumper music. Cool.

Then he announced that they had just heard that Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell was dead.

He apparently died after a Soundgarden show in Detroit. The latest news, however is even sadder: it appears he may have taken his own life.

I remember when Soundgarden was just a local band. It was 1988, and I had just gotten involved with college radio, and the station where I was volunteering was an alternative rock station, KCMU.

A lot of the people there not only were really into the new alternative music, they were very much into the local scene, which -- at the time -- was turning from a punk scene into something else: grunge.

Soundgarden was the first grunge band I ever heard. I still remember when DJ Maggie (a cute, punked up blonde who was dating one of the other DJ's, who played drums in another local band) held up the new Soundgarden EP, Screaming Life, and held it in the DJ booth window for everyone in the station to see.

Then she played a track off of it called "Nothing To Say." The music was thrilling, to say the least: Soundgarden had a way of taking the classic rock guitar and vocal sound and updating it with punk and alternative twists, with odd timings and strange chord sequences thrown in for good measure.

It would be cool if I could say my life had changed -- but it didn't. I was heavily into Australian rock and pub rock music at the time -- Midnight Oil, Rose Tattoo, and bands like them. Heavy hitting, Oz talking punch rock bands. It took a while for me to get into grunge.

But I'll never forget hearing Soundgarden for the first time. I wasn't sure about some of the other bands of the Seattle scene, but I knew I really liked Soundgarden's music.

A couple years went by and I was working at a company that delivered weekly music to radio stations all over the United States. No sooner than I started working there, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger album hit. I remember putting the CD on the CD player and hearing "Rusty Cage".

I was blown away.

In early 1994, Soundgarden were recording Superunknown at Bad Animals Studio, which was across the alley from where I worked. The company I worked for shared the parking garage with the studio. I remember going out to my car one afternoon and several dudes that looked familiar strode in -- it was the band, along with some other guy, perhaps the producer. I could recognise Mr. Cornell immediately, from his hair (he hadn't cut it yet). They got inside a Jeep Wrangler or similar SUV vehicle, and within seconds I heard the opening chords to "My Wave", which they apparently had just recorded. I guess they wanted to hear how their new album would sound on a car stereo system.

A month or so later in 1994, I had a chance to meet Chris Cornell, if only for a few moments. I had heard that Soundgarden were doing an interview at Sit and Spin, which was a club on north 4th Avenue with a laundromat included.... Inside it was a very artsy place, where they served alcohol drinks and fruit smoothies.

I managed to catch Mr. Cornell out front, just as the band were leaving, and just before they boarded the tour bus to start the Superunknown tour. I had my copy of Superunknown in hand -- which I"d already been playing to death. I still think it's one of the best albums ever made.

I handed him my CD, which was in the plastic wrapper I used to keep the jewel case from getting marred, and asked him if he did autographs.

"We thrive on it!" he said, half pulling my leg. He grabbed the CD, and gingerly pulled it out of the plastic wrapper, and opened it up, and I handed him the Sharpie pen, and he very politely autographed the back of the booklet.

I told him how much I liked the entire album -- every single song.

He thanked me for my comments on their music, and soon enough, the band were on their way.

A couple months later, Soundgarden did a video for "Fell On Black Days". They were rehearsing it in the Bad Animals soundstage, and they kept the back doors wide open for a half hour or so, as they tuned up, and ran through the track a couple times. I guess they were filming at the same time, so they could use the footage in the video.

Soon enough, a small crowd of people -- maybe eight or nine -- stood in the alley, listening.

After a bit, they closed the doors. It was a hot night in August or early September, if I remember correctly. It was so long ago I can't really remember exactly the month or the date.

Just last Thursday night I went to karaoke with my mom at a local pub. I sang Soundgarden's Rusty Cage. I did a good job on it for once. The off-beat part in the middle is always tricky. I love singing that song, and a couple other Soundgarden songs, Pretty Noose and Outshined. I don't sound like Chris Cornell, but I can hit the notes. I always have been amazed at the way he could sing.

Now Chris Cornell is gone. I feel like in some way, a small part of my life has been ripped away.

It's sad to hear that he may have taken his own life. They say Mr. Cornell was in good spirits overall, but the police are investigating it as a possible suicide -- just like Michael Hutchence, of the Oz band INXS; the band thought he was O.K. -- but it turned out he really wasn't.

One day they are looking happy, then they leave this Earth.
Anybody remember CD's? I guess they're now a 90's thing.

It's always a tragedy when someone who has touched your life dies. My thoughts and prayers go to Chris Cornell's family.

He was a part of this City we call Seattle. The scenes and streets and waterways of the City are mentioned in many of Chris Cornell's songs. His band was the first Seattle band to be taken seriously in years. And they hit it big in the early 1990's when Seattle was the thing going.

Now a part of my City has died along with him.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Cornell, and may God bless your soul.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A VALENTINE'S SONY BOOMBOX

Valentine's Day has come and gone, as it is February 15th as I start to write this.

Unfortunately Valentine's Day gets a bad rap if one isn't going out to dinner or on a date on that evening... I don't share that attitude about the holiday. To me it's become one of the first holidays of Spring. You get Valentine's and St. Patrick's and Easter in a row -- and then nothing 'til the Fourth of July.

A couple years ago a house in another nearby neighborhood had Valentine's lights out. That was cool.

Anymore I see Valentine's Day as a harbinger of Spring. And this year Valentine's Day was a grand Spring day! It was 61 degrees F outside. They would call it "T-skjortvaer" (T-shirt weather) in the Nordic countries, where 16C is sometimes typical summer weather. Here, we don't have such a moniker for surprisingly warm days -- but we enjoy them just the same.

A VISIT TO THE THRIFT STORE, AND THE BOOMBOX WAS STILL THERE
As noted in this blog earlier, I made a visit to the local Goodwill thrift store the Saturday before Valentine's, and it was a lively place. That's when I first spotted a bright yellow Sony boombox up on one of the shelves in the electronic section. Because I wasn't there to shop around for electronics stuff, I just glanced at it and then went to get what I needed.

Early during Valentine's Day I needed to get a couple more things from the local Goodwill store.

The sun had already come out, and it was a bright day. When I drove to the store and went inside, I checked the electronics section. The Sony boombox was still there. Now, I probably need another radio like I need an extra hole in my head, but when I looked over the Sony boombox closely I was impressed. It was a bright, fire engine yellow, and definitely a 'Sports' model. It was in terrific condition.

Instantly, I wanted to buy it -- if it worked.
A LITTLE ABOUT SONY
For those who were born later than 1985 or so, Sony was an electronics company that made a lot more than the Playstations they are known for now. Back then, they made all sorts of excellent audio equipment, boomboxes, TV's, video players, tape players, LP turntables, Minidisc players and radios, including the Walkman. Later on they diversified and got into the camera and video camera business.

During the 80's especially, Sony was the big deal. Sort of like Apple today. You could say Sony was the Apple of the 1980's and 1990's. Everyone had a Walkman or a similar AM-FM cassette player, the same way everyone has a smart phone today.

I say this because I just realised, while looking over the boombox, just how ancient technology boomboxes and Walkmen must be to anyone who wasn't alive during the 80's or 90's. I'm certain there are probably many who -- in this age of IPhones and Androids -- have no idea what a Sony is, except for the name of a gamebox.

You look in any old online catalog or enter "Sony boombox" into a search engine, you'll see all sorts of cool looking Sony (and other) boomboxes. I recently did so and was surprised at all the cool types of boomboxes and Walkmen Sony produced, especially in the 1980's, which was the decade of the Walkman and boombox. Sony was THE brand to have, although there were other good brands, including those by Japanese makers Sanyo and Panasonic.

Sony, of course, made other radios, too. The Sony 2001 model was the first mass-produced, consumer grade digitally tuned SW radio. Its successor, the Sony 2010 model, was a long running digital SW portable which is so collectible it is almost as expensive now (if not more expensive) as it was in the 1990's when it was the most popular. The Sony EX5MK2 MW-FM radio is probably one of the best MW radios still available, with synchronous detection and excellent performance.

Sadly, though, Sony is no longer the top brand in electronics -- everything -- including cameras, one of the more recent Sony mainstays -- has been replaced by the smart phone.

SONY SPORTS BOOMBOX
This particular Sony boombox that caught my eye, a bright yellow Sports model (Sony "Sports" Walkmen and boomboxes were bright yellow and water and rain resistent) looked like it probably sold for over $120-$150 when new. I have no idea what year it was made, but I think it was in the late 1980's some time. There was an old sticker on it that showed it had sold for $99 somewhere a few years ago.

The batteries inside it looked like they had been stored in the radio for a long time, and a couple of them were corroded. But the battery compartment itself was very clean. It needed batteries or a 9V adapter for me to see if it would work.

I found a 9.5 volt wall wart adapter in the electronic accessories box next to the appliance section at Goodwill, and the adapter had a negative tip (used by Sonys, Panasonics, and many Sangean radios until recently). I found a wall outlet and plugged the adapter into the wall and the radio fired up. Both AM and FM worked perfectly. The dial had a little backlash near the top end but still tuned well.

So I bought the boombox, along with the adapter. Even though the adapter was half a volt high, it isn't that much of an issue -- many adapters are off by a volt or more from nominal, anyway.

I took the box home and plugged it in out on the front porch, and switched the FM to 98.9 Mhz, "Rock 98.9 KVRQ" (I've blogged about 98.9 in an earlier post here).

Soon I was out in my driveway in just my T-shirt, cleaning and sanitizing a wheelchair and walker and listening to my new 1980's era Sony Boombox, in my T-shirt and jeans. It was so warm out that I was very comfortable. Even though it was February, it felt almost like Summer out. The air was fresh and exhilarating. I took a ride around the area on my bike, relishing the fresh Spring air and warmth. It was invigorating.

That night I switched the radio to the AM side and found it DXes the AM band reasonably well -- about as good as most boomboxes. It's a little less sensitive and selective on the AM band as my Sanyo or Goldstar 1990 boombox, but still hears distant stations with readable signals. During the day it hears most stations that my Superadios will pick up. The most noticeable difference is the wider bandwidth and the looser AGC. It has a very natural sound on the AM band -- but sometimes I miss the tighter AGC that DX radios usually have.

The first night I had it, I heard KNZR from Bakersfield, California on 1560 loud and clear, and also heard XERF 1570 coming from across the border in Mexico. XERF was readable on fade ups, and when I placed the boombox next to my GE Superadio there was an obvious difference in reception, but there weren't any times when the GE had a signal and the Sony had nothing. The Sony just faded more and was less clear when the signal dropped.

I took the Sony with me when I needed to drive in the rush hour traffic and it sounded great in the car, tuned to 98.9. The FM section seems to have good sensitivity, as I was able to hear a Spanish station on 99,3 (El Gran D, a fringe FM station with the transmitter about 100 miles / 120 km away) with the whip antenna down -- and this was while driving around in my car. When I got back home I looked up the info on the radio -- there isn't much out there, but it appears to be a late 1980's model.
Traffic on 167, going about 15 mph.
I'm very impressed with Sonys -- I can't think of a Sony I've had which was a dud. Some of their clock radios need an external loop to DX with, but most people don't buy clock radios to DX with. But their Walkmen are DXable (with a loop, and sometimes without -- all of my Sony Walkmen will bring in regional AM stations with readable signals, and I can DX with them using a loop) and some of their other radios are quite capable. And this boombox was no different.

During the day the Sony boombox brings in CBU 690, the CBC station just 200 km north of us. It usually comes in weak on most of my radios, but readable. As I type this, I'm listening to the CBC and it's coming in at S3 and very clear. There is a bit of splash from KIRO 710, a 50 KW local station. So this Sony boombox has fairly wide selectivity. Good for AM listening, a bit dicey when DXing near local 50KW stations.... but if you null a local station, nearby channels are still audible.

The Sony doesn't have a ton of output through the headphone jack when DXing the AM band, but it's adequate. With a loop I can DX with it fairly easily. I haven't taken the back off the radio, but I've seen a pic of the boombox online with the back off, and the loopstick is about 60mm. During the late 1980's, boombox manufacturers began putting smaller loopsticks in the radios. They figured the high sensitivity IF chips would make up for the smaller loopsticks. With this Sony, the chip isn't as high output as with other similar radios I have. But it's still adequate.

Like nearly every boombox I've had or listened to, this Sony would be a good emergency preparedness radio, as it will pick up regional AM stations with readable signals at night. It seems to be decent on the D cells, also. I put in a used set of D cells (which I swapped out of my GE Superadio 3) and have run the boombox maybe 8 hours or so and the power indicator is just starting to dim, but it still puts out a decent volume with no distortion.

So it would be decent for emergencies, but if you find one of these Sony gems and want to DX with it, a loop is definitely advisable.

If you have a thrift store in your area, they're pretty good places for finding radios if you're a DXer or transistor radio and boombox collector. I don't always see radios there that I want, but every now and then you find a gem.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

REFERRER SPAM og Helt Sjuk

HELT SJUK
This past month has been abysmal in some respects. I caught some sort of head-cold/flu and it just didn't want to go away. Then it became a form of 'walking pneumonia', for which I had to take antibiotics. Now it's just relegated itself to the category of 'bronchitis'.

It feels like a month has been stripped away from my life. I can function OK for some things, like work (which has picked back up lately). But other things, like working out with weights, riding my bike, etc. etc. -- not so good.

DXing has been mediocre, and when you're coughing your guts up the last thing you feel like doing is tuning across crowded Medium Wave frequencies looking for 'rare' signals.

I have tuned the Shortwave bands, though, and found it a bit relaxing whenever there were stations from the other side of the world. But overall, the month of March was a blowout.

The above is a screenshot of my Google BlogSpot stats page. As you can see, there are numerous hits that are quite regular, about 30 of them every other hour or so. All from the same computer, and all from the US. Someone apparently really wants people to click on their links -- which I haven't done.

REFERRER SPAM
I've titled this post "REFERRER SPAM" because my blog receives quite a bit of it. At first, I wasn't sure what it was. All of a sudden every other post was receiving 30-40 hits or more a day, all from the U.S., and all from a Macintosh computer with a Chrome browser.

After a bit of Google searching I found out that these mysterious, multiple US hits were mostly from a form of spam called "referrer spam" -- it's a technique by which spammers slam your blog with hits, hoping that you'll click on their web links to see who's "viewing" your blog.

Of course, the joke is that no one was actually viewing your blog, it was a bot that slammed your blog with hits as a weird form of clickbait.

I still get a good numbers of readers from overseas, although I have no idea anymore which articles they are reading.... But I'm glad they're still reading the posts. And I'm sure a few of the hits from the US are actual readers, and I'm glad for them also. But the massive blast of hits from this spammer makes looking at my reader stats a challenge at best, and no fun at the worst.

I noticed that the blog posts which I "shared" via Google Plus are the ones that get the referrer spam hits. My most recent post, about the Sony Sports Boombox, so far hasn't received a ton of spam hits.

That is probably because I didn't "share" that post via Google Plus.

In the future I may avoid "sharing" my posts because of it. I'm still uncertain whether to continue "sharing" or not. I really don't know if there's that much of a benefit.

This particular post I shall "share" via Google Plus, so I'm sure by the end of the week it will have received about 500 hits or something -- maybe 20 of them actual readers.

Either way, life is picking up, slowly. Still coughing, still hacking, but less and less each day.

Here's hoping that those of you readers -- especially the ones in the Northern Hemisphere where it is still colder weather -- don't catch the type of virus I got, from wherever I got it. :-)

Peace.
CC 4-1-2017


Saturday, February 18, 2017

ENGLISH RAIN

The past few days have been less like Winter and more like Spring. Invigorating weather. I've been able to sleep with my window cracked open at night, without freezing in the process. During the mornings when I take my bike ride, it's usually 50F / 10-11C and sometimes dripping a little.

The other morning it was a light drizzle. It reminded me of the sort of rain that one sees in movies filmed in the UK -- the type of weather I call "English Rain".

We get a lot of that here. And it's not bad: when it is just dripping, you don't really need an umbrella or raingear on -- it's just drizzling enough to barely wet the clothes. A baseball cap keeps the rain from hitting my glasses as I ride.
A few of the local creeks were full of water. Trickling streams became real mini-rivers. One of the creeks off the local trail dumped a load of mud and water over the Trail about a mile or so away.

An unnamed, perennial creek flooded the Trail with water and mud overnight.
The Cedar River has gone from clear to muddy to clear to muddy. During the rainy days we've had here recently there has been a lot of runoff from the local street-network storm drains, which (conveniently) empty into the river in various places.
The Cedar River after snow and rain earlier in February, swollen and muddy.
Graffiti finds its way to the strangest places, in this case a moss covered cottonwood near the water.
A colorful sunrise during a rainy early morning.
Several ducks enjoying the "English rain" we've been having lately.
One creek in particular usually looks like an Alpine ravine -- the creekbed is massive, compared to the amount of water usually running through it.

During the recent spate of heavy rain we had overnight a couple nights ago, that creekbed was full of muddy water.
'Troll Creek', an unnamed creek but it runs through a beautiful ravine that reminds you of something from a fairy tale. A few days after some heavy rain, the usual trickle turned into a roaring mini-river of muddy water.
A shaft of sunlight through the trees near the Cedar River Trail.
One of the last remaining snowmen in the area. :-)
Driving a couple mornings after the snows hit in early February.
Snow turns to slush -- a week or so before Valentine's week, 2017.
A bright sunny morning a few days after the snow was completely gone.

LOOKING FORWARDS TO SUMMER
Right now most of the holidays are past, and the main thing to look forward to is Summer. And if the recent temperatures are any indication, we may have a real good one this year.
Timmy the Cat says hello.
Here's hoping your days are invigorating -- wherever you are.
CC 2-18-2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A MOOD LIFTING SATURDAY BEFORE VALENTINE'S DAY

The past couple weeks, for reasons I don't want to go into here, have been a bit stressful. Saturday night (February 11th), I went to the local thrift store to get a walker for a relative. They had a couple nice ones for cheap prices.

Now, like I've said -- I wasn't in the best of moods... But the lively crowd inside the Goodwill thrift store was enough to pick up one's spirits decently -- it was a lively shopping crowd, with all sorts of people in there.
Colorful Valentine's balloons, early Valentine's morning at a local grocery store.
Some young women were there, dressed in what would have been called "grunge" fashion back in the 1990's (which was a bit surprising, actually), and there were people of all races and socio-economic strata -- all shopping, milling around the busy thrift store around 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.

I went over to the electronics section -- there was a Sony Sports boombox that looked very appealing. But I was there to get a walker, so I went to that section of the store, which was about halfway towards the back wall of the place.

As I was looking over the walkers, I noticed the sound of classical piano coming from the back of the store.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a guy sitting at an old upright piano, playing away. He played delightfully -- Claire De Lune, Fur Elise, Liebestraume, and many other classic piano pieces. Even the broken key somewhere on the right side of the keyboard didn't interfere with his playing.

Soon a small crowd gathered around -- myself included. We all listened, enchanted by the lively music in the back of a thrift store on a dreary Saturday evening.
Some were recording the man playing the piano on their smartphones. The liveliness of the jaunty music, the man's European style cap and fancy style of playing, and the milling crowd all gave the thrift store a festival atmosphere -- which was just what I needed that evening.
A massive Teddy Bear at a local Fred Meyer box store.
As the Valentine's Day holiday approached, one couldn't avoid all the Teddy Bears, Stuffed hearts, stuffed hedgehogs and other little (and gigantic) stuffed animals which were all for sale for people to buy for their lovers in all the stores -- from drug stores to grocery stores to box stores.

I've included a few pics of them here. It's kind of nice when there is a holiday dedicated to love, especially when love seems to be in somewhat short supply in the world today.

This holiday I kept getting reminded of Valentine's Day past -- especially one V-day long, long ago. I kept having to shove it out of my memory.

Here's hoping your February is full of Spring and good cheer.

CC 2-15-2017




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

AND THEN THERE WAS SNOW!

Three to four inches of snow on a hillside... Winter arrives in the Seattle area once again.
As I mentioned before on this blog, snow is about as rare as hen's teeth here in the Seattle area. North of town they seem to get some snow nearly once or twice every year, but south of the city where I live it's pretty rare.

We had a big snow west of here, in the Burien area, on New Year's Day. But where I live we barely got an inch or so.

But surprise, surprise! Sunday night it began to snow here in my section of the Seattle metro, and it kept snowing. All night. As I write this on Monday morning there is about 3-4 inches of snow outside (8-10 cm).
Snow gracing my backyard, with the distant snow covered trees adding to the Winter feel.
Virgin snow on a suburban city street, soon to be marred by bicycle tires.

This morning (Monday) I went on a ride on my bike, which is very stable even in the snow. I rode down a nearby trail, the Cedar River Trail. At first, pedaling the bicycle wasn't that tough. It takes a couple of minutes to get used to riding in snow, but you get the feel of it -- take really easy turns, use a low gear, etc. It's actually quite pleasant, especially in the morning hours when there are no cars to worry about.

After about an hour I noticed it was really tough pedaling. It was because a couple km down the Trail the snow was a bit thicker, and it began to make this 'disc' on my wheels, a solid circle of snow that constantly rubbed against my brakes. Riding the bike was like doing a leg press.

I definitely got my workout this morning.

I stopped and knocked the excess snow off of my wheels and it was easier after that.
The Cedar River Trail with 3-4 inches of snow -- untouched by foot or bicycle tires around 4 in the morning.
I was the only one on the Trail -- none of the diehard regular bikers were out this morning -- usually I see a few as early as 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., commuting to work via bicycle. But not in the snow, apparently.
There's nothing like the feeling of riding a 10-speed with the front wheel acting like a disc brake that is always engaged.
It was a nice, quiet ride, and aside from it being like a leg press, it was quite enjoyable.

It's now Tuesday a.m. as I finish this post, and there still is some snow on the ground. It's nice to see a bit of Winter, even if it arrives in February.
The Purple Grape after a long snow run.
Snow on my outdoor lights and ornaments, which I've left up because I have a sick relative who missed out on Christmas.
Wednesday morning: I wrote this post in chunks.... Leaving it as is. The snow is still on the ground outside... It will soon be gone, and we'll be back to our typical grey, cold February weather. But for the time being, it is truly Winter outside. :-)

Here's hoping you all are having a great February.
C.C. 2-8-2017