Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Month: November 2013 Page 2 of 4


A question I’m frequently asked is “Why is your username ‘autographedcat?”  Since I was asked again recently, I thought I’d repost the answer I’ve given in the past.

I was at a Flash Girls concert several years ago,1 and during a re-tuning break, Lorraine Garland mentioned that they were going to pass a hat around after the show, because if they couldn’t raise enough money to pay for their trip home, they’d have to sell their cats.

Everyone dutifully said “Awwwww.”

Emma Bull looked up sharply from her retuning and said “Oh, stop. It’s not like anyone would WANT them.”

I replied “Well, maybe if you autographed them.”, which provoked much laughter.

Later, while exchanging e-mail with Lorraine, I mentioned this conversation, and she said, “Oh, I remember you! You’re the autographed cat guy!” It seemed as good a nickname as any, and it’s always available when I need a screen name. 🙂

And that’s why I’m called autographedcat.

At this point, I’ll open the floor to further questions.  Leave them in a comment, and I’ll answer them over the next couple of days.  Ask me anything.

  1. It was, I’m almost certain, at Dragon*Con in the mid-late 1990s.  Neil Gaiman was there, with early rushes of the TV series Neverwhere, which was then in development. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a slight detour

When I was 16 years old, I bought a guitar.

It was a bit of an impulse.  I’d been working all summer as an inventory clerk for the county Board of Education, and having very little to spend my first real wages on, I’d just been putting the money in my savings account.  I was visiting a friend in Greenville, and we stopped by a music store because he wanted to look for something.  And there was this guitar.  It was a black Rickenbacker solid-body six-string,1 and the guy who was selling it needed exactly $250 to buy a keyboard for a gig, so that’s what he was selling for.  I didn’t know a lot about guitars, but it seemed like a pretty good deal, so I decided on the spot to buy it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to play it, and I turned out to not be very good at figuring it out for myself.  A few years later, needing money to move, I reluctantly sold it to a friend.  But I always regretted it,  2 and told myself that one day, I was going to buy another guitar and learn to play it.

Ten years later…

A near-death experience has a remarkable ability to bring your future plans into sharp focus.  I decided that I should consider doing those things I’d always meant to get around to sooner rather than later, and so I began looking for an instrument to suit me.  I finally purchased a Fender 12-string acoustic3 from a shop in Alpharetta, and signed myself up for a 12 week group class at Mars Music.  Once I’d completed that, I borrowed song books from anyone I could, and leafed through them looking for songs I knew the chords to.   These I copied into a binder, which I then played through as much as I could, trying to develop at least enough technique to accompany myself.  I’ve kept at that over the years, adding new songs as often as I can and trying to improve my playing.

I haven’t done too badly at that, I suppose.  I’ve played on stages in front of tens of people from time to time.  But a long time ago I found the plateau of where I could push myself, and I’ve been stalled there ever since.  Good enough to do what I’ve been doing, but not where I wanted to be.  I’ve known for quite some time that to get to the next level, I need an instructor.  For one reason or another, I’ve not actually taken the  step of finding one.  There was always a good reason.  I didn’t have the money, or I didn’t have the time, or we were going to be moving soon4

But there was also fear.  For all that I seem gregarious and outgoing, I hide a lot of shyness and social anxiety, and the truth is that part of what I had to overcome was my own mental blocks.  I knew going in that I was going to have to say to a potential teacher:  “This is what I have.  15 years of bad habits, cheats and short-cuts that have kept me from stepping up to the next level.  I will have to unlearn those before I can move forward”, and that was a harder thing to do that I realised.

But after searching around, I finally decided to take that step.  I reached out to an instructor I found on the web who isn’t far from where I’m now living and inquired about availability, and have since exchanged some emails5 and set up a time to go in and meet with him.  I’m hoping that we click and that I’ll be able to expand my horizons and start doing some of the things that have felt out of my reach.

And despite all my trepidation, I’m really looking forward to it.

  1. I’m pretty sure it was a Rickenbacker 230, but since I don’t have it any more, I can’t really be certain. 

  2. I’ve happily in recent years, thanks to Facebook, reconnected with the friend, but sadly she sold it to someone else some years ago, so there’s no chance of getting it back.  Alas. 

  3. I liked the wider fretboard on the 12 string.  I have large hands. 

  4. which has been the excuse for pretty much the last two years, honestly. 

  5. I told him a version of this story you’re reading, with a lot more focus on the specific skills that I’m lacking and wanting to pick up.  So at least he knows what he’s in for when I show up the first time. 

Yo ho ho…ho!

Yo ho ho...ho!
Yo ho ho…ho!


Going to Market

One of the things that excited Larissa and me about our new apartment was that it was walking distance to a great many things, and we can certainly do with more exercise and fresh air in our lives. So today we decided to go out for a nice stroll down to Pike Place Market for lunch and a bit of random shopping.

We left a bit after noon and headed down Thomas Street to the pedestrian bridge that goes down into Myrtle Edwards Park. We’ve already come to love this park, and there’s a great many photos taken of the waterfront and the Olympics across the water on my Instagram page. We had not, to this point, really taken the time to explore the walk/bike trail that runs all along it, though, so we set off south towards downtown to see what we could see.

We wandered along the edge of the Olympic Sculpture park, stopping to take a photo of myself under a giant ampersand.1  There’s a bit of a sandy beach just past it, with a large sign warning people to not pester the harbour seals when they are resting on the rocks.  We didn’t see any seals, but there were a number of ducks on the water looking reasonably pleased with their lot in life.  Past this beach the trail empties out onto Alaska Way which continues on down past the piers on the waterfront.

We ambled on down the street, stopping to take pictures of interesting signs or structures, and eventually arrived in the vicinity of Pike Place Market, where we promptly became incredibly indecisive about where to eat.  It didn’t help that, being Saturday, the market was completely packed with people, so we wandered up the block a ways and found a nice sushi joint called Japonessa which promised “a Japanese core concept with hints of Latino flair.”2  We were seated pretty quickly despite having no reservation and our very friendly waiter got us set up with some ginger beer and a superb edamame appetiser, which was very fresh and salted perfectly.  We then sampled the brie tempura, which was served with an extraordinary raspberry sauce, and finished with a variety of sushi rolls and sashimi.3 I have a feeling this is going to be a restaurant we return to, because everything was excellent.

Well stuffed with food, we went back over to the market4  We poked through the hat shop, but they only had sizes up to XL, which isn’t quite large enough for my head, so no new hats were acquired.5 We wandered down into the lower levels, where they keep the bookstores.  There are two bookstores that I’m aware of in the Market, both with friendly and conversational clerks.  I was tempted by many things, but in the end we only walked out with a single paperback.

We wandered over to Beecher’s Cheese Shop to get some cheese, but it was packed and the line was very long, so we decided to come back another day.  Larissa’s foot was starting to bother her and it was beginning to get dark.  So we headed up Pine St to 3rd Ave and caught the #13 bus back home.

It was a lovely afternoon with no agenda.  And that’s really what Saturdays are all about, Charlie Brown.

  1. amplectere potestem “et” 

  2. This wasn’t a fusion I’d encountered before, so it seemed worth a try. 

  3. Larissa declared the sashimi “the best she’d ever had”, and she’s had quite a lot of sashimi over the years. 

  4. Pausing briefly to politely suggest to the guy standing on the corner with an IMPEACH OBAMA sign that he might consider the many benefits of getting a job, or at least finding something better to do with his time. 

  5. I’ve been told there’s a serious hat shop somewhere in Seattle, and I need to take some time to find it. 

Embrace the power of “and”

Embrace the power of “and”

(Olympic Sculpture Park)

Friday Five: Perspectives

The Friday Five is a set of interesting things I ran across over the course of the week that I thought were worth sharing widely. Most of these were already shared on my Facebook feed, but I wanted to elevate them and put them in front of people for a second time. I hope to make this a weekly feature in the future.

whose deadly web ensnareth thee abouttywinning asked you: 2012-08-09 03:37 As a professor, may I ask you what you think about fanfiction? I think fanfiction is literature and literature, for the most part, is fanfiction, and that anyone that dismisses it simply on the grounds that it’s derivative knows fuck-all about literature and needs to get the hell off my lawn.

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Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling Address Gender BiasLena Dunham interviewed Mindy Kaling for Rookie: Yearbook Two, and the interview covers what you’d expect those two to cover: showrunning, pop culture, moms, feminism, Nora Ephron, women’s magazines. They also both expressed their exasperation with institutionalized misogyny. Dunham: Do you ever get embarrassed to point out gender bias?

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Stonekettle StationI’m not a particularly reflective kind of guy. I don’t spend a hell of a lot of time dwelling on the past. For me, as someone who spent most of my adult life in the uniform of my country, every day is a day to remember those I served with.

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How I Learned To Stop Explaining How Old Things Make Me Feel“Get ready to feel old.” I read this on Twitter almost every day, and usually it’s a good-natured reminder that something loved by many people of approximately my vintage (born in 1970) has hit a particular anniversary. Big was 25 years ago, you know. She’s So Unusual was 30 years ago.

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The Things Nobody Tells You About GriefI’m on countdown mode. It’s been almost a year without my mom. In my head, this breaks down into hundreds of phone calls, cups of tea, and hugs and kisses that haven’t been exchanged, and a landmark birthday of mine-all missing from my 2013 memory log.

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The Ballad Of The Swingman

The Ballad of The Swingman
by Rob Wynne and Jeff Williams
TTTO: “Wichita Lineman” by Jimmy Webb

I am a swing man for the Rockies
And I have no workflow
Waiting for the call
To enter and to throw
I see the batter and the catcher
I send a fastball, low inside
And the Cardinals first baseman
Hits it right down the line

I’d like this game to wrap up early
But it don’t look like rain
With extra innings our bullpen won’t ever take the strain
And we need more hits than strikeouts
And we strike out all the time
And the Cardinals first baseman
Hits it right down the line

And we need more hits than strikeouts
And we strike out all the time
And the Cardinals first baseman
Hits it right down the line

This is just a fun little insta that Jeff and I bantered in an IM conversation. (We have conversations like this all the time. Don’t you?)

The original song this is a parody of, “Wichita Lineman”, contains one of the greatest lyrics of any love song ever written. Click on the link above if you’ve never heard it.

The light through the trees.

The light through the trees.
The light through the trees.

(Myrtle Edwards Park)

The Folsom Connection

Over in the Tadpool group on Facebook, there’s a thread on the topic of “What’s your favourite song to sing in the shower?”  One of the commenters wrote: “That’s a tough one I don’t know if I have a favorite… I will sing anything from Johnny Cash, Folsom Prisom1 Rainbow Connection.”

Being a filker, of course…and a filker fresh off a con where my creative brain is already in gear, the following just fell out of my head:

Why are there so many songs about prisons
And people who are inside?
I’m stuck in this one because once in Reno
I shot a man to watch him die
I guess, in hindsight, I kind of deserve it
It wasn’t a nice thing to do
But as that train rumbles past old Folsom Prison
I can’t help but cry, wouldn’t you?

I’m not sure there’s really a point in going further with it; the joke is complete at the end of the first verse.2 I really need to start a file just for little show-stoppers like this one.

  1. Quipped another:  “Folsom Prism is my Johnny Cash ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ cover album.  I’d pay serious money for that album.  Serious money. 

  2. As Bill Sutton taught me:  “Short is good.  Funny is good.  Short and funny is best. 

Cloudy sunset.

Cloudy sunset.

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