Almost November

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I realized today that it’s been almost a week since I last did a non-news post here. There are several reasons for this.

First, of course, I’ve been busy with work. Among other things, I’m preparing for my ten minute session at next week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Though I can’t find it exactly, John F. Kennedy is said to have said something like “It takes 20 minutes to prepare for a 4 hour talk and 4 hours to prepare for a 20 minute talk.” I know the feeling. I’ve been chatting with many of my colleagues on the topic I’m going to cover, and it’s a great excuse to get caught up with the people and the technology.

Second, last weekend we drove out to Chicago for the Family Weekend at my daughter’s university. Though I had seen her a couple of weeks earlier, it was the first time my daughter, my son, and my wife had seen each other in over a month. That had never happened before in our lives. So seeing her was wonderful, saying goodbye was bittersweet, but she’ll be home for Thanksgiving in four weeks.

Third, everyone in my family is obsessed with the US elections. Sites like pollster.com allow you to wallow in statistics and trends to your heart’s desire, but you have to get back to real work and life on a regular basis. I’ll be glad when the election is over, assuming my guy wins.

Fourth, I keep poking around in virtual environments like Second Life, though in no way as seriously as I did at the beginning of 2007. They’re not going away, but are morphing, getting refined, and being combined with additional technology.

Katie's Halloween when she was 3

Fifth, I’m trying to get serious about the guitar again. I know what I did wrong in my initial burst of enthusiasm with it, and this time I’m trying to have more discipline. I also better know my limitations. You know how some people are double jointed? I’m half jointed. Therefore I may as well accept that barre chords just aren’t going to happen for me, but that’s ok. I’ll never be able to sit in a lotus position without falling over either.

It snowed here last night, though only about half an inch. Traffic wasn’t really disrupted by it, though people seemed a little bit nervous driving when I brought my son to school this morning. Where I live, they don’t cancel school if we have half a foot of snow, but they do if it hits -20 F (-29 C), which happens every few years in January or February.

When we first moved to northwest New York 15 years ago, my daughter Katie was 3. That first Halloween we had half a foot of snow. Rather than being discouraged, she thought it was great. Somehow two holidays, Halloween and Christmas, got combined. She didn’t get gifts but she certainly got a lot of candy. (See photo.)

My son thinks November will be great. On one hand, there is the election next week. On the other, World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King comes out on the 13th. I believe him when he says that the former is more important to him than the latter. If his guy wins.


5 Comments

  1. Bob, are you a prototype IBM cyborg? Where do you get the energy drive to Chicago in the snow while playing guitar while writing a speech while surfing election stats on your netbook and playing WoW with the kid? Only a multi-limbed dad-bot could do all this in the car! ;-)

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cyborg….)
    _________
    Do you realize that our prez candidates started running their campaigns as far back as May 2005! That’s insane and the country is exhausted. I figure they’ll be a lot of post-election partum next month for some folks.

  2. Bob,

    On the barre chords … two things that helped me were to have the guitar’s action lowered and to switch to a lighter gauge string. Don’t know whether you’ve already taken those steps.

    h2

  3. @Howard: Yes, I’ve experimented with such things, but really to no avail. I think there could be hope for barre chords on an electric guitar for me, but not acoustic.

  4. Some hints:

    1. Use half barres wherever possible. Most of the time, a full barre isn’t needed and clutters the sound with too many strings. This is particularly true in ensemble playing. For example, a Bb barre using the index and third finger (P and M in the PIMA system), seldom uses the first (high E) string.

    2. Bend the wrist as little as possible. The tendons have to traverse the wrist and it weakens them. The hand is everything from the elbow to the tip of the finger. That is one reason it is harder to play standing up.

    3. Be sure the fingering is correct. Guide and pivot fingers are very important to proper use of barres. Be sure the pinkie (A) is not jutting out. It should be almost even with the other fingers. This is also a big plus for scales. Avoid three finger blues scales unless absolutely required.

    4. Thumb position is essential. If the thumb is poking up above the neck, that’s wrong. The top of the top should be centered on the back of the neck for maximum strength.

    5. Roy is right about the action. If the strings are too high, have a luthier reset the action for you. Unless you know the method, don’t do this yourself. If you notice that the guitar plays out of tune in higher positions, it needs to have the neck adjusted anyway. There is a simple test: chime at the 12th fret (touch the string without depressing it to the fret and strike it. It should make a bell like sound.). Then push to the fret. If the pitch is different (pitch, not tone), it needs work.

    6. Be sure in a grande barre (full barre) that the index finger is firmly adjacent to the fret almost but not quite touching it. Even in a barre, the rest of the fingers need to be on their tips not the palmer tip. The exception is the two finger barre. That is the hardest to get right because the third finger bends uncomfortably until you get used to it.

    7. Keep a small rubber ball in the office and when not doing anything else, squeeze it in the left hand (unless you are left handed).

    8. Make sure you have a guitar suitable to your hand size. A regular nylon string classical guitar is not made for rock and barre chords are tough for a moderately sized hand because the neck is made wide for interval playing common in classical literature.

    9. Don’t use oversized strings (eg, 12s). 10s are fine.

    10. Capos are criminal but so is extra sugar in coffee. Do what works for you. Simply be aware that capos pull the guitar out of tune slightly. In solo it won’t be terrible, but in ensemble, it is noticeable. Trying to tune for it only works for a few minutes, then the strings slip. If you must, be sure you have a capo that is the right size and not one with a bungee strap. Those were popular in the sixties but are the worst for tuning.

  5. @len: Thanks, len, I’ll give your suggests a try!

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