Guitar Camp

On the way back from last weekend we had a discussion of summer camps. It made me think of Guitar Camp when I was younger.

I’ve always loved music. Mom somehow ingrained that upon me as a child. She is one of those people who go through life with a song on her lips. Unfortunately I lack in pretty much all artistic ability including music. I have some rhythm and I can hold a tune, but my vocal range is somewhat less than a full octave.

So once my voice changed and even the church members began to wince as I sang, I decided that I should learn an instrument instead. I wasn’t interested in piano. That seemed to be either a girl’s instrument or played by bloodless boys with little oomph. So guitar was my choice. I was likely thinking a little more Richie Sambora than the classical guitar I ended up signed up for.

Manfred E. Harter was my guitar teacher. The E stand for Eustance. Poor fellow. I learned how to read music and find the frets on a guitar. Manfred was not great at theory though. Perhaps I just did not progress far or fast enough that he wanted to teach me any. I was also abhorrent at practicing.

The thing I found I did not get the most though is the ability to play a song. To me having a guitar meant that when someone started singing, you’d be able to pick it up and accompany them. The classical guitar brought absolutely none of that. I don’t know if I was ever able to vocalize that lack, but for some reason Mom signed me up for guitar camp one summer.

Guitar Camp was the opposite of the MEH academy. It was run by nuns, but lacked in strictness. Manfred used to have a beating wand to rap our knees with when we made a mistake or drooled on his instruments while trying to concentrate. The Sister in charge of Guitar Camp basically let us run around all the time.

The guitar camp song book is an eclectic mix of hymns, folks songs and modern pop rock tunes. The students were divided up by rough musical training/aptitude into different sessions. What followed was basically a joyous sitting around and playing music and singing. The training was not much. They taught chord positions and about 10 different strumming and picking patterns. The advanced class taught how to do a bar chord.

It was awesome. I loved guitar camp. I realized that knowing 3 or 4 chords allowed you to play almost every song possible. Fancier tunes might throw in another two chords in the bridge or maybe a minor chord. A brief time at guitar camp taught me what I wanted most to know of music. Far more than formal training ever had.

Know it turns out I have almost zero ear for music. I still can’t pick out what the right chords for a song are without a song book. I’ll never be a professional musician. But if you give me the chord changes i can play along. That is pretty nifty.

Still it would have been nice to inherit some of my Aunt Gaylene’s talent. Tricky though as I think heredity only works along direct bloodlines. Sigh.

Still nimble fingers from guitar practice also helped me with video games too! It helped make up for my complete lack of timing in those games. But maybe my annihilation of Double Dragon is a tale for another time.

So just a quick thanks and a shout out to guitar camp. I hope that somewhere this summer there are still nuns teaching kids music. It might be that all the hippy nuns are too old now though. Let’s hope anyway!


Uber Comics Recap

I’m not sure how long this will be.

Iron Man(s) – Iron Man has been cool during my absence. Larroca has been consistent on art. I do have to say that it maxes up on the cool and the tech and the mood, but low on the action. There was also an annual focusing on the Mandarin. It was nifty.

Madame Xanadu(s) – This run was pretty cut up. I need to fill in the blanks. I really like the Martian Manhunter as a noir detective. It is funny and a bit spooky. Good stuff.

Avengers and New Avengers – The Bendis corner of the Marvel Universe. He is going old school here. A Kang time travel plot, throwing in Apocalypse as a villain. I wonder if the Romita artwork seems a bit rushed though? High action and a bullet plot. So far so good, but Bendis stumbles on the endings of these kind of stories. New Avengers is doing the same sort of thing, but with evil magicians. It isn’t quite as successful, but it works well enough.

Walking Dead Trade 12 – Yay! So a new permutation of an old plot. Rick and his band of merry men and women find a new community. This trae is ann sunshine and build up. What will tear it apart? Zombies? The evil within all men? Or will Rick’s own paranoia be the downfall? Some very nice work with Carl.

Garrison #4 – I missed #3. A good plot twist here. There is nothing fancy in this series – just a high concept and solid execution. The paranoia when the cameras are turned on the series 2nd star works well.

Batman and Robin #13 – The Frazer Irving art is incredible. This may be the best Morrison has done since We3. But I have giant gaps to fill here.

Irredeemable (12 and 15) – The gaps in issues may have hurt the most here. Gah. Nicely done though – I could still follow the plot. The arc is climaxing and it is funny to dip your toe in and out.

The 6th Gun – Supernatural Westerns, possessed six-shooters, and Brian Hurtt art. Very nice.

First Wave – Maybe I should drop this again and just get it in trade. It was very nice, but it comes out so slowly and so little happens issue to issue.

The Thanos Imperative – This is DnA with the governor removed. Drax gets all Destroyer’y and the Surfer and Galactus lend a hand. Rocket Raccoon fires very large guns. It is nice.

Return of Bruce Wayne #3 – Pirate Wayne fights Blackbeard and the Black Pirate. I liked this too.

Uncanny X-men (the only one in my normal file) – Uh-oh, the side plots seem more interesting than the Hope main plot. But the side plot were awfully good. I like Fraction’s Magneto and Heinberg did a nice Magneto too.

Iron Man was the highlight. Yay!

Too hot to blog

Too hot to eat.
Too hot to think.

A nice thunderstorm would be nifty.

Little progress today on the work front. No word on my passing the security check which is the next hurdle before I can do anything else.

In the height of the heat my knee felt great this afternoon. I think I found a way to sit in my chair that puts zero pressure on it. My back and neck get sore after too long in that position though.

I feel bad since I skipped blogging yesterday as well in order to read comics. So I will be doing a clever mime instead.

And now in reverse.

Whew. I need a cold towel now.

This and that, but not the other thing

Items of greatness to be covered below – today, Telus and Comicon.

I had zombie dreams last night. I hate zombie dreams. But I slept late regardless. I slept long past the hour my maids were supposed to show at 8 am. They didn’t show because I had canceled them. I had them canceled because the front stoop of my building is torn apart and access is verboten. (Hmm – the spell check is happy with verboten.) Now I must live for the next two weeks in one of Dante’s Hell layers. The one reserved for slovenly and lazy people. Note this is also impacting my pizza delivery. Grr.

When I finally awoke I was displeased to discover that my knee hurt. It hurt worse than when I had gone to bed. It might have hurt worse than all of Monday. But it turned out that it was jut stiff from sleep. It is pretty great now. By mid-afternoon I thought it might be solid enough to try exiting my shower.

Getting into the shower is easy. Showering takes a bit of caution. Getting out is tricky. One foot must be left on the slippery shower floor while the other one navigates the mat outside. Of course, my routine is that it is the leg with the tricky knee to stay inside. I cleverly posted on Facebook just before I went in. Should I fall and die I’m sure someone would have checked on me within three hours. Unfortunately for the glory of my would be rescuers I was fine.

The other order of business today came with an unexpected benefit. I needed to fill out the paperwork for my security check. Unlike the GoA, Telus does the check on your behalf. I was only required to scan two pieces of ID, fill out two forms with signatures, and get my photo. The forms give Telus permission to poke around in my life. They may find this blog! That requires only a Google search of my name though – not any permission.

They asked redundant questions like “How long have you lived at your current residence? (10 years, 7 months)” and “Have you live in Canada more that 3 years?”. Not redundant for everyone, but for me getting the 2nd one wrong would have meant a rather costly move of the condo complex!

The photo was the trickiest. There were many requirements and I decided I likely couldn’t meet them all taking a photo of myself. I put out the call for help and Troy answered.

The benefit was that I also managed to wrangle an invitation to dinner out of it. We had very nice grilled chicken and vegetables, sweet potato fries and expensive beer. Bonus! The kids were also very adorable I thought. We then had a three player game of Carcassonne. You will likely not guess the result…

It appears I am not giving up my bear any time soon. Even Gabriel had pity on me and Eunice thought my play was so lousy she was offering help.

So Telus. Here is what I know: not much. I’ll be working in the Telus Optik production team. Optik is their IPTV service that is heavily advertised on TV. I wrote a post about my tour of the facilities that week – scroll through looking for something with “chickens” in the title. The next step is that I need to review the contract and get incorporated. Fortunately Dave and Craig have given me a large selection of company names to choose from. I was thinking of Hidden Rabbit IT Solutions Ltd., but Crooked Dyck Inc. is probably much better.

I will probably not be able to get you a break on your Telus bill. Sorry. Since I am also not in the call centre, I probably can’t help you with you service calls either. But I am sure I’ll help to make the Telus TV service just awesome! Gimme 7.5 days to learn the ropes. Knowing I will be there, I heartily recommend you all switch for your TV package.

Finally the San Diego Comicon. It happens every year during the guys weekend, so I miss all the press coverage. If I was able, I’d sit and watch it much like many of you sit and watch hockey drafts. Not a big deal this year because there was essentially no news. The movie studios have taken over the show and it is far more about promoting the next big movie than comics. I only have one announcement about comics worth talking about. The big publishers are saving their better announcements for other comic shows where they will at least be the focus.

That announcement is that Marvel might start publishing some Crossgen titles. See Disney purchased Crossgen when it went bankrupt. Last year Disney also purchased Marvel. I’d love to see some more Way of the Rat, Ruse or Sojourn.

There was one big of movie news I liked too. They announced the full Avengers movie lineup. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). I approve. I like all the actors except Chris Hemsworth whom I don’t know. I am a big fan of Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson.

Bigger news is the confirmation that Joss Whedon of Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Serenity fame will be directing. Yay! It was not really news so much as rumour confirmation, but it still makes me enthused.

And that is all the news that is fit to print and some that isn’t as well.

Good night!

“The” Weekend Recap

Things started to get interesting when we first noticed that we were lost. We were on Alberta highways so we were not horribly lost, but we were nearly 100 km east of where we should have been. We had an important job. One group was making the bulk run to get foodstuffs. Another the grocery run for items which weren’t required in bulk. Our job was to get to the cabin first and setup the electronics.

We had written directions and a man in the van who knew where he was going. I had a map to the cabin on my iPhone. None was enough to keep us on track. Finally realizing we had missed a corner, we set ourselves back towards the cabin. We arrived about 10 minutes after the grocery crew and 30 minutes before the bulk crew so little harm was done except to our pride.

The good news was that the extended trip allowed the first gaming experience. We pulled out Time’s Up and ran a modified version. My butt was handed to me – a theme to be revisited many times during the trip.

The weather was incredible as we arrived. It stayed that way throughout. When hanging around playing games you don’t want it to be too hot even when those games are outdoors on the patio. Saturday and Sunday the weather was a little variable. The wind picked up and there were occasional spurts of rain. But it was never really cold or too wet. The rain was generally so brief that it didn’t even cause us to take a break for cover. We slid the gaming table further under the patio overhang and continued on.

Twice a crew went out fishing. They only fished catch and release, but everyone had some success. Even that was turned into a bit of a game as the largest and most fish were both tracked and tabulated.

Late Saturday afternoon, there was a little accident while helping me out of a chair. I was on my feet, but as I tried to pull my legs together my foot slid a bit and my balanced collapsed. To say I fell implies a quicker descent, but I managed to land with both legs splayed out to the side and my knees bent back under me. Even though it was during the middle of the crucial turkey cook a group assembled to get me back up. No visible damage was done, but I pulled/twisted something in my left knee.

At first it hurt. Fortunately a first aid kit provided an icepack. We were very close to using some of the ice that had been frozen for scotch. But it was still able to support my weight and standing on it didn’t make it hurt any more. It seemed to hurt the most when I turned my ankle beneath it and when I tried to pull my foot back when walking. That night was tricky. It hurt quite a bit and I found I could only roll half way over in one direction without putting pressure on it that hurt a lot. Still managing to sleep has never been a problem of mine! The next morning it didn’t hurt and only ached. It still hurt when twisted. By today it doesn’t hurt at all, aches when twisted and hurts when a lot of pressure is put in it in the wrong direction.

My greatest highlight for the trip was Mass on Sunday. The Boyle parish seems to only have a turnout of about 50-60 people during the summer. When the ten of us tromped in we greatly boosted the size of the congregation and the priest’s jaw nearly dropped. When our section began to sings the hymns with enthusiasm and for some smaller number of us decent voices and skill the priest was prompted to begin the service by thanking us for our attendance.

The poor priest seemed flustered throughout the Mass. He engaged in a question and answer portion during his sermon. At first it seemed that his questions might be rhetorical, but we soon determined he was actually looking for answers. So many of us began to contribute vocally to the Mass as well. It culminated at the end, when still flustered, the priest mused as to whether there was anything else he wanted to say. Troy suggested, “How about ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another'” (or a similar Mass closing). Perhaps Troy was worried that the priest was so atwitter that he might forget to dismiss us, but it simply prompted the Father to question us on our presence ad purpose.

It was so much fun that on leaving Dave suggested that it might be fun to someday descend on another small town parish with our crew and their entire families.

So before the trip one of the big anticipations was for the food. It was no let down. Our worst meal was likely delicious BBQ’d smokies and sirloin burgers. I like the breakfast foods so I think that the best were the homemade McGriddles Dano made. Maple infused waffle tops and middles, sausage patties hand assembled and grilled out on the BBQ, cheese and eggs also sized to fit on the dinner roll sized assemblage. They were num-num good.

The premiere meal was the deep fried turkey. Two years of anticipation and one previous failure had only whetted our desire for this. There was no failure this year! Corn on the cob was grilled on the BBQ and while I was nursing my knee the turkey was deep frying. Stef had also managed to put together a spicy jerk infusion for the bird as well. It came out spicy and juicy and tasty. The corn was also juicy and sweet. After two years wait it will be hard to top as a main course.

Now the real main course for the weekend was gaming. Troy and Dano has a definite goal. They had invested several hours into a co-op Gears of War 2 campaign the year before. The goal was to finish it. Unfortunately when everything was setup, their save game was gone! stymied not in the least, the two stalwarts started again. Amongst us all they went for the latest nights, playing until the sun started to rise on one occasion.

The other video game success was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. I played a few hours on that. It was interesting to me as the game adapted fairly faithfully about 3 years worth of the main Avengers plotlines in Marvel Comics. Most of the twists and some of the action set pieces were stories I was well familiar with.

More than anything else though I played board games. We probably played about one third of the games we brought. Oddly some old favorites never saw play including Dominion, Descent and Arkham. The game that saw the most play was Bang! Bang! isn’t my favorite game. It is strongly related to two other games I have – Werewolf and Are you the Traitor? Bang! has a great theme of a western gunfight and dresses up the core mechanic of guessing hidden roles with some innovative card play. But I find it introduces too much randomness and takes away some of the social interaction that makes Werewolf so good. Now Bang! is still a pretty good game and I’d likely never turn down a game and I didn’t all weekend long.

We never did play Werewolf. It is best for groups greater than 9 people so even our large group didn’t really have enough this year to make it work. We did play a game of Are you the Traitor? for the first time and it worked pretty well, but I still like Werewolf best of those games.

We also played every single Vlaada Chavtil game I own. Civilization:Through the Ages, Dungeon Lords, Space Alert and Galaxy Truckers. All four were good successes. Civilization Through the Ages worked well, but it had been so long since we played we all made some strategy and tactical errors that slowed us down. If we play again in the near future I think it will work very well.

The other Vlaada games are all fairly humorously themed. Those games were all accompanied by some laughter. Actually, all the games were accompanied with laughter. But those laughs were directly related to the theme.

The biggest game success, I believe, was the Sunday afternoon game of Time’s Up. We got all 10 of us together to play. I have avoided inside jokes here, but ask Dave to mime out the name of James Bond characters some time. The whole game went well and the game was my one big win of the weekend. Rob M. might deserve the most credit as his guesses during the game were often inspired. He, Dave and I were the winning team.

Another success was Nuns of the Run. We played about three times. Each time was taut and frustrating for me as I never got anywhere close to winning, but most everyone else seemed to rack up at least one success there.

Actually, getting my ass handed to me in game after game was an ongoing leitmotif for the weekend. So much so that I won the only substantial award we handed out. I’d talk more about it, but it would seem to make me a hypocrite. 🙂

The last goodness was the accommodation. The cabin out on Skeleton lake is such a great venue. My wrecked knee aside, I have never slept better at one of these weekends.

The trip ended much as it began with us getting lost. Fortunately, we realized immediately that we had missed a corner and only circled a single block, but it made a nice bookend to the weekend. But the rest of the ride home had some nifty conversation about lottery winnings and it ended in the Fort with some ice cream. Yummy.

This year has been a year of fairly dramatic change for a number of the guys. (I don’t mean to say all the changes are equivalent.) We are pretty lucky that we are able to get together for a weekend like this and all just decompress. Of course, we are even luckier to have the friends we do – not only play games with, but to stand beside us through the changes. At least I am.