Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend update and some pix

My "new" smartphone doesn't have a great camera, but I've been trying to take some decent pictures with it anyway.  Here's a close-up I got of some Heavenly Blue morning glories that I think turned out pretty well.  Somewhere on one of my routes last week.


We were in Floresville all afternoon today for a big Girl Scouts bridging ceremony for all the Girls Scouts in Wilson County.  I found this relatively new marker at the community center.


And just beyond it, the grave site.


And my daughter, who "bridged over" to Senior Girl Scout.


And finally:  H.E.B. now has Whataburger's spicy ketchup.  I will never eat regular ketchup again.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

So I took a CPR class

One of my requirements at work is to take at least three classes this year--all of which are furnished by my employer--as some sort of self-improvement gimmick or something.  One of them will be learning how to handle the new handheld device whenever it comes in, so that leaves two more.  I've been looking for classes that seem interesting and useful.  There are a lot of classes that would basically be just blow-off classes for me, like how to use Excel and Word, or the Computer Basics class.  I might take on one Powerpoint or Access just for kicks.

Anyhow, this past Tuesday I took a day-long class on basic first aid and CPR.  I think it was a great class, and I gave the instructor high marks all the way around on my class critique (something we have to do for every class we take, even the ones that are only an hour long).  This class was the American Red Cross version, so if you've had one of their classes you've probably been through all the same stuff.

I've been wanting to get CPR certification for a good while now, so when I found out it was one of the classes we could take, I signed up right away.  Since this was at work, I didn't have to pay for it myself (and of course, I was on the clock the whole time, so you could say I was actually paid to take it).

It had plenty of hands-on stuff, but honestly I think I would like to take a more intensive first aid course that covers more stuff.  I remember my dad, who worked for the highway department, had to take a week-long course every couple of years.  When I was a kid I'd read all the books he brought home from the class, so I've had a basic knowledge of first aid since I was quite young.  I remember once when my sister and I were at home alone after school and she somehow cut her hand pretty badly and started panicking (blood squirted everywhere).  I applied a pressure bandage just like I'd read in my dad's book and got her calmed down.  I was her hero after that.  My mom had to boast to everyone about it.  I was probably around 8 years old at the time, which would have made her 4.

I remember another time when I worked at the pizza place, I walked in for my night shift and found one of the day crew workers with her finger stuck in a cup of what appeared to be Big Red--but we didn't serve Big Red.  "What's that?" I asked.  "I cut my finger," she said,  "it won't stop bleeding."  "What the **** do you have it stuck in a cup of water for?" I said, a little testily.  "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" she said.  "Holy ****," I said, "NO."  So I had to patch her up, too.

Last year, my employer put at least one AED (automated external defibrillator) in every building they have.  There's one in our building near the front.  During a break, I asked our teacher if he would be covering how to use it, and he said yes.  The ones we use can be seen here.  They are pretty slick.  This model turns itself on as soon as you pull that part that says, "PULL."  It has voice instruction that tells you everything to do and when to do it.  It also has clear diagrams showing you exactly where to place the pads.  The only thing you need to know is how to do chest compressions and it takes care of everything else.  For our class, we used training models that behave just like the real thing except they don't actually deliver a shock.  They also beep at the correct rhythm during the time that you do chest compressions so you don't have to sing "Another One Bites the Dust" to yourself.  That carrying case it comes in is a little smaller than a standard kids' lunchbox.

We also had hands-on training on how to roll someone over, how to apply a pressure bandage, how to make a makeshift arm splint, for which we used our instruction manuals, and how to recognize and treat shock and heat stress.  The heat stress thing is a big problem in our work.  Also burns.  Getting burned is a problem in some other departments, but it probably won't happen in mine, except for sunburns.  But mostly the class was focused on CPR.  I should be getting my card in a couple of weeks.

We were also given a face shield in a little pouch that can attach to your keychain.  To see it, click here and scroll down to the American CPR Mini CPR Keychain.  I think I might go ahead and order one of their packs that looks like a mini-backpack and has a face shield, gloves and antiseptic wipes.  They only cost $3.50 for one.

I'm glad I took this class.  I just hope that if the occasion ever arises, I'm still able to do what I was taught without freaking out.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Weekend update

Well, how about an update of sorts.

My daughter has been "borrowing" my ukulele.  She keeps bugging me to buy another one so she can just keep it in her room and play with it all the time.  I'm still planning on buying another one--a tenor next time--but not until next year's tax return because I'm planning on spending around $200 on it.

I haven't been working regularly with it, but I'm still making progress.  Certain chords, such as B♭major and B major & minor don't scare me so much anymore, but I still have a ways to go before I can play them smoothly.  E major is still throwing me.  So far I've been avoiding it, but if I want to play anything in A I'm going to have to learn it (E7 isn't giving me any trouble at all).

I've been grabbing chord & lyric sheets for a lot of songs from various websites and putting them all into a 3-ring binder.  Some of the songs that I originally wanted to try and learn have fallen by the wayside because I found I didn't have all that much interest in them.  Others I suddenly realized I wanted to try although I hadn't thought much about them before.  So since I don't have much else to talk about, here's a list.  You may feel free to stop reading at this point if you're not interested.  These are in no particular order except how I stuck them into the book.

Flowers on the Wall  - The famous song by the Statler Brothers.  I really like the lyrics to this song, they are very bleak and belie the happy sound of the music.  I might work on an alt version of the music just for kicks.

That's How I Got to Memphis - One of my favorite Tom T. Hall songs.

Streets of Laredo - An old cowboy song which I know from the CD of Don Edwards that I borrowed from my dad.  In a couple of places I changed a C major chord to an A minor to give it a sadder sound.

Walking the Floor Over You - Ernest Tubb.  Old country songs tend to be quite easy to play and sing, and although I don't listen to this music all the time these days, this is where I came from.

Paradise - John Prine.  Some people mistakenly call this one "Muhlenburg County."

Some Days are Diamonds - The John Denver song.  I have always really liked this song.  The chord sheet I found for it had one minor mistake, according to my ears, which I easily corrected.  The person who uploaded it had a C major in the chorus which should have been a Cmaj7.

Corpus Christi Bay - Robert Earl Keen.  A very simple three-chord song.  The hardest part about this one is keeping up the driving energy throughout the whole song.

Rank Stranger - An old folk/gospel song, recorded by numerous bluegrass artists.  The only version I found was in C, which sounds too low for my voice although I can hit all the notes.  Every version I've ever heard was recorded in F.  I can hit the high notes in F no problem, but this is one that was giving me trouble because in F I have a IV chord of B♭, so I've been practicing it in D.  Once I get that B♭down I'll be doing it in F so it will have more of that "high lonesome sound."

When I Reach That City - I stumbled across an album of old country gospel songs that I was able to download and this song was on it.  The family who recorded it (at Sun Records) way back when performed it with only two chords (I and V or V7).  I changed the chorus a little and added a IV and a vi chord in the right places to give it a little more flavor.

Angel Band - Another old folk/gospel song in three chords.  I recently came across a version recorded by The Monkees(!) with Michael Nesmith singing lead.  It's always been a favorite of mine, but I really like the Monkees version.

Waltz Across Texas - Another Ernest Tubb song.

Shot Full of Love - I haven't been practicing this one all that much but I've always liked it.  The first version I ever heard was by Juice Newton, from her album Juice.  It was also recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  It was written by Texan songwriter Bob McDill.

Cool Water - I've learned that Sons of the Pioneers songs are deceptively difficult.

The Last Cowboy Song - Ed Bruce.  So far this is the only song that I've practiced doing something other than just straight strumming.  I pick the root note of the chord first, then strum the full chord for the two following beats of each measure (it's in 3/4).

Faded Love - I haven't practiced this one much because I don't have the melody firmly fixed in my head.  I need to listen to it several more times.

Orphan Girl - A more modern country/gospel song.

Morning Dew - Another Tom T. Hall song.  I've had this song memorized since I was a little kid.

Maria - Brian Setzer.  This one probably doesn't translate too well to the uke, but it has a fairly easy chord progression.

Lodi - John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival).  A fairly easy 5-chord song (I, ii, IV, vi, V).

The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore - Originally by Jean Ritchie.  The first version I ever remember hearing was by Michelle Shocked.  June Carter Cash also did it, and probably lots of others since it's an old country/folk song.  I've been mostly listening to the version by Annie Patterson.

Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Because why not.  I have to have at least one Dylan song, right?

King of the Road - Heh.

It's Hard to be Humble - Mac Davis.  I did this one as a joke for my wife one night and she liked it, so it stuck.

Is Anybody Going to San Antone - There are going to be a lot of old country songs on this list.

In the Pines - The version I know best is by the Louvin Brothers.  There's no way I can hit the high notes in this one, when they aren't singing words but just going "ooooh, ooooh, oooh" etc.  So I whistle that part.

I Can Still Make Cheyenne - Another one that I tried for kicks and my wife got starry-eyed, so it stays.

Hollywood Waltz - By the Eagles.  I've also been practicing "Seven Bridges Road" but I haven't bothered to print it out because I know it so well.

Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen.  Everyone knows this one, so I should too, I guess.  I like it a lot, anyway.

Fraulein - One of my dad's favorites, for some reason.

Do What You Do Do Well - Two chords:  D and A7.

Dark as a Dungeon - Recorded by numerous country artists and even by Wall of Voodoo.  I've been mostly focusing on the version by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  This is part of my trilogy of coal mining songs, along with "L&N" and "Paradise" previously mentioned.

Angel From Montgomery - Another John Prine song, but more famously recorded by Bonnie Raitt.

Amarillo By Morning - Another favorite of my wife.

All My Tears - Another country/gospel song which I first heard by Emmylou Harris but written by Julie Miller, and it's Miller's version I've mostly been listening to lately.

After the Glitter Fades - Because I wanted at least one Stevie Nicks song and this one fits in with the country-ish theme of the whole collection.  Also it's pretty easy.

Boat on the River - An old Styx song from their Cornerstone album, written by Tommy Shaw, who has in the past few years become my favorite Stygian.  I need to practice this one a lot more, but it has a few chords that are still difficult for me.

Black Muddy River - From the Grateful Dead's In the Dark album.  I don't remember it getting any radio play, but it's my favorite song from that album.  This is another one that will be easier once I get the B minor down.

Before the Next Teardrop Falls - I've been practicing singing that one part in Spanish.

Evil Love - A goofy little song from the Phineas & Ferb TV show.  I'm still working on playing syncopated rhythms so it will sound right.

Goodnight Irene - Another standard.

Downbound Train - Probably my favorite Springsteen song.

Don't Stop Believing - The way I sing it, it has a wistful, almost ironic sound.  Probably not for most folks.

Della and the Dealer - This song is really hard because of the vocal range required.  Hoyt Axton had such an excellent low range.  I just can't come close to it.

The Traveler (Days are Numbers) - Alan Parsons Project.  Easy chords, but doesn't sound all that great strumming.  I think this song will eventually drive me to actually finger-pick.  I also want to learn their "Old and Wise" but it has some chords that are really difficult for me.

Closing Time - By Lyle Lovett.  I can do the chords, but I'm having trouble getting the melody fixed in my head.

Mountain of Love - I'm most familiar with the version by Charlie Pride, but lately I've been listening more to the version by Johnny Rivers.

The Weight - A favorite by The Band.  I just started working on this one tonight, and am happy to report good progress.  I have it in G, which means I have to play a B minor, which is one of the chords that has been giving me problems.  But I can tell that eventually I'll be able to do it.

Gorilla You're a Desperado - Which I've been plowing through just for fun but it doesn't sound very good yet.  I'd really like to to Zevon's "Desperado Under the Eaves" but it's a lot harder.

Video Killed the Radio Star - Yeah.  I worked on this one for a few hours non-stop one night until my hands were tired and cramped.  It's fun.

Books About UFOs - By Husker Du.  Quite easy.  Just requires a lot of energy.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Trying to play something similar to the version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

Landslide - Written by Stevie Nicks, recorded by Fleetwood Mac.  I hadn't thought at all about this one until I saw Jake Shimabukuro do it.  Of course, I'll never play it like he does, but I still like it.

Wish You Were There - The last song from the Hi Infidelity album by REO Speedwagon.  Another obscure song that is nevertheless one of my favorites.

I Miss a Lot of Trains - I really like this song.  By Tom T. Hall, but lately I've really been digging the version by Iris Dement.

Pancho and Lefty - This is another one that I've been working on a lot.  I've been listening more to the orignal Townes Van Zandt version than the one by Willie & Waylon.

Dead Flowers - By the Rolling Stones.  But I pattern mine more after the version by Townes Van Zandt.

Seven Spanish Angels - Famously by Willie, but recorded by many others.  I've mostly been listening to an old version by Daniel O'Donnell.

Tia Maria - Ronnie Fauss.  I posted the chords & lyrics for this one a while back.

Love Songs in Spanish - Another easy one which I posted chords & lyrics for previously.

Dust in the Wind - Another one I'd never thought about until I saw Ukulele Mike do it on YouTube.  This one I do just for my own personal amusement.

Give Me Forty Acres - My favorite truck driving song.

He Stopped Loving Her Today - When George Jones passed away recently, I suddenly remembered this song.

I'll Be Coming Home - A bluegrass-y piece by Tommy Shaw from his Great Divide bluegrass album.  I think I added a vi chord in there that isn't in the original just to keep it from sounding too monotonous when I do it.

Northwest Passage - Stan Rogers.  Another one I do just for myself.

Over the Waterfall - I have a few songs by Michelle Shocked which don't sound all that great just strumming.  They sound much better with a real guitar player and a fiddle to fill them out.  But as with most of these, I do it for myself.

Prodigal Daughter - Michelle Shocked, see above.  I haven't practiced this one much because singing the melody is giving me fits.

Silent Ways - Also Michelle Shocked, but I think one works a lot better and I've been practicing it more.

The Secret to a Long Life - Michelle Shocked again.  Another one that doesn't work that well for me, but I play with it anyway.

You Never Even Call Me By My Name - I intend to annoy the **** out of somebody with this one someday.

Praying Mantis - By Don Dixon.  Simple chords, but requires a lot of energy and syncopation.

Rose Colored Glasses - John Conlee.  Another old favorite.  That reminds me I also want to look up his "Backside of Thirty."

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - I used to play around with a harmonica, and this was one of the few songs I taught myself to play on it.

Gentle On My Mind - Most famously covered by Glen Campbell, but written by John Hartford, and it's his version I've been listening to.  There's a video of him on YouTube performing it with nothing but his own banjo for accompaniment.  This one stumped me at first because of the relatively unusual seventh chords in it.  But then I tried it and was elated to discover how simple it is to make the changes on a uke.  This one would sound much better if I could finger pick.

Wild Horses - Another one that I'll be able to do better when I get that B♭down.

My Darling Clementine - I ran across the full lyrics for this one the other day and decided to write my own music for it.  So the version I've been practicing is actually totally original as far as the music goes.

A Horse Called Music - I came across this one by Willie Nelson on a sampler I had downloaded.  I still have to listen to it a lot more to get the melody down in my head.

Whoopi Ti Yi Yo - An old cowboy song recorded by Don Edwards.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - This is another one I've thrown a minor vi chord into just because I like the way it sounds better in certain places than the original major I chord.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Juggle this

Just had to share this, via the Ear-Trumpet.


Some 19th-century dude juggling rifles with fixed bayonets.  Probably violating a few of the Rules in the process.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Yeah, but...

The only thing I could think was, that ukulele has a broken string.