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Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 - 1:15 AM

"Doodling on the Job"

Have you ever been caught doodling on the job? I don't recall this ever happening to me, but then again I have the worst memory of anyone I know. Well, today I had an excuse for doodling at work. Our art department passed out paper to everyone, asking for the page to be filled with doodling. I couldn't exactly disobey a direct order (request), so I commenced drawing little weird, nonsensical characters (as is my default).

I can't think of one purpose in all of creation where my goofy drawings could be considered useful other than to entertain myself and the very few like-minded. Perhaps my drawing will be tossed aside, labeled as too weird. Oh well, at least I got to draw at work. In reality, I draw at work at least once a week, making background imagery for promotional email advertisements I send to all our customers.

Here are some closer shots of the doodling not afforded by EsoGallery:

This guy's name is RigMeal
This guy's name is "RigMeal". He is clever enough to convince others to give him their food. In a way, it's kind of a waste though. He can't eat much of it because he has no teeth

Here lies Pud Musket
Here lies Pud Musket.

Kit Whisker and Clueless Brute Charlie
Kit Whisker and Clueless Brute Charlie.

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Monday, January 29th, 2007 - 10:04 PM

"Guitar Progress II"

Pretty much all I did this evening was practice with my guitar. I downloaded some worship song lead sheets so I can learn to play the chords listed in them.

I started thinking of strumming and how it is supposed to be done. Perhaps not everyone thinks about that detail, but I immediately thought of it. There are so many patterns you can choose, depending on the length between the chords. A Google search awarded me with quite a number of sites that share tips on strumming. Here are some of those I found. Some have helpful videos or sound.

E Minor Guitar Chord

After a little reading and practice, I discovered that my self-discovered strumming pattern was working pretty well for me. I experimented with a few others from some of those sites as well. I chose a song to learn and began to try my hand at each of the four chords required to play. One of them was new, the E minor. It's about the easiest one in the book.

Rather than making it easy and telling which song I learned this evening, I'm going to make you guess. After much horrible sound production, I recorded a basic MP3. I know: it's absolutely horrible. I could have doctored it up and made it sound actually quite decent. But I want to show the process of my learning, so I can look back later and see how far I am coming along. I left in all the pauses and mistakes, exactly as they were played. At this point, it takes me several seconds to switch chords because my brain hasn't memorized the positions perfectly. But I did play from memory, not looking at a song sheet or anything - not that it's a hard song, but that's pretty good for me, the ultimate beginner.

Here is the MP3 for listening Note: if you cover your ears and scream (a quite natural reaction), you won't be able to guess the song very well.

Leave a comment with your guess which song I am playing. It should be fairly easy, but my playing is so butchered and pokey that hopefully it will pose some challenge.

Observations after a couple days of practice:

  1. My fingers really hurt! Immediately after playing they are somewhere between red and purple. Interestingly enough, at some point they start going numb, and I don't feel it so much. When I stop for some minutes and start again, the pain returns. It hurts most to submerge my hands in hot water - like when I'm taking a shower.
  2. The B major chord appears to be impossible. It is not only a barre chord, but it requires my fingers to go directions that my joints don't allow! I don't know if I'll ever be able to play that one.
  3. I find playing with the pick very difficult. It is far easier to keep a steady strumming pattern when using my fingers. On the downward strum I use my second and third fingers. On the way up I use my thumb. It feels pretty natural. I also find it very difficult to play softly or at any reasonable level with the pick. And it gets stuck in the strings because it's hard to vary the strinking angle properly. Not only that, but it makes a loud clicking sound the softer I play. So for now I'm using my hand to strum. I read that 99% of steel guitar players prefer using picks. I really don't understand why.
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Sunday, January 28th, 2007 - 11:54 PM

"My First Guitar Instructor"

I did some research into the Yamaha Guitar QuickStart DVD to see if I could figure out who the guy in the video is. I wanted to give him a quick credit on Esotropiart. It's strange that there are really no credits on the printed sleeve, and no names are referenced in the video or on the DVD menus. A Google search on the subject of course resulted in nothing (not even Google can't know the names if they aren't published anywhere - though Google brainiacs are likely working on a mind reading application). Somehow I happened upon the email address of someone who worked at the company, MIDItainment, where the DVD was published.

Taking a shot in the dark, I sent a short email telling of the missing credits and expressing my wonder who the "Yamaha Guitar Guy" is. To my surprise, I promptly received a very cordial and down-to-earth email from the president of the company. He informed me he was unaware that the names were not referenced and would see to it that subsequently printed media would include some sort of credits. It's cool that my random email would result in such action! So if anyone wants to know who the "Yamaha Guitar Guy" is, you have me to thank if it's printed on your DVD sleeve when you buy a Yamaha Gigmaker :)

The name of my first guitar instructor is George Castelles. I have been informed that he is a very talented guitarist and an all around nice guy. I would have assumed both by watching the video. Just goes to show you: "Ask, and you shall receive" and "You have not because you ask not". It's kind of funny: I have had at least one other recent real world experience that brought these verses to mind (James 4:2 & Luke 11:10). Now if only I can apply them where they are most relevant: in my relationship with God. If I get such favorable responses from the world of men, imagine how my Father will respond!

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Saturday, January 27th, 2007 - 11:39 PM

"Guitar Progress I"

Today was my first day practicing with my new guitar. As I mentioned earlier, I started out by watching the instructional DVD that came along with my Yamaha F325. I just tried to find the name of the guy on the video so I could say "_______ _________ was my first guitar instructor". But being that his name is not mentioned or credited anywhere, I will just say the "Yamaha Guy" was my first guitar instructor.

This afternoon I started searching for guitar chord diagrams on the internet. In my search I came across an incredible site: The site offers a Flash-based Virtual Guitar and Chordbook. Through their friendly interface virtually any imaginable chord can be loaded into the graphic guitar model. It is the clearest diagram I have seen. The finger numbers are displayed on the position dots instead of below the chart. This is preferable and faster to read.

Every chord can be "strummed" virtually so its sound can be heard and compared to your practice. It is also possible to get a group of tabs for inversions for each chord. As if that wasn't enough, you can construct your own chords by dragging dots along the virtual guitar finger board. 36 standard or custom chords can be stored in a buffer and played in sequence.

I learned my first four guitar chords today: C major, D major, G major, and A major. The fingering for each of these is pretty easy to achieve. Some of the other major chords seem ridiculous. For example, I'll have to see someone doing a B major chord to believe it is humanly possible!

A Major Guitar Chord C Major Guitar Chord D Major Guitar Chord G Major Guitar Chord

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Saturday, January 27th, 2007 - 6:20 PM

"Me Playing Guitar is Like Asking For a Miracle"

My parents generously gave me some money for my birthday last year, and my mother-in-law also gave me some money before returning to Brazil earlier this month. For the past few weeks I have been at a loss in deciding what to buy (mainly for my birthday). Things that I have been thinking to purchase are too expensive - like a digital SLR camera or a laptop.

A few days ago the idea of buying an acoustic guitar came to me. I have always been interested in learning to play a musical instrument, so now is my chance. I emailed my guitar-playing friends, Karl and Dave, to get some initial advice. Then Dave and I went to Guitar Center, and I bought my first acoustic guitar, a Yamaha F325.

I chose the Yamaha primarily because it was within my beginner (cheap) price range. Plus, it comes in the form of a pack called the Gigmaker. The set includes the guitar, tuner, strap, soft "gig bag", instructional DVD, and replacement strings. Before arriving at Guitar Center I had narrowed my selection to this Yamaha set and the Fender DG-8S, similarly "equipped" set. I asked the experienced salesperson which he would choose and why. He pointed out that Fender is not particularly known for making acoustic guitars, but rather electric. He also mentioned that the action seemed easier/better on the Yamaha. This means that the strings are closer to the fingerboard and are thus easier to press down to form chords and notes. This is an important attribute for a beginner guitarist (me), and Dave also mentioned that point. I could tell the salesperson was being honest because the model he recommended was cheaper. So I went with the Yamaha.

Last night Dave and I attempted to tune the guitar with the supplied Qwik Tune tuner. I guess they call it "Qwik" because it only takes 2 to 3 hours to tune your guitar! Well, that's because I didn't know what I was doing. I finally figured it out, and it should be simple from now on. The key is to tighten the strings so they are relatively close to where they should be before trying to use the tuner.

Today I watched the majority of the instructional DVD and am trying my hand at a few simple chords. Boy does it hurt my tender fingers! I had ample warning, furthermore, and realize it will be a painful process to get my fingers broken in (that doesn't sound good!).

Me and my Yahama (say that 374 times fast!)

Oh, and there's nothing wrong with asking for a miracle, so me playing guitar may also end up coming to pass. I don't expect great things from myself, however. I'll just do my best. In truth, the primary reason I want to learn, at least to play a few important chords, is so I can use it worship God in intimate settings - either by myself or a small group. Some of the best times of my life were centered around singing familiar songs with a guitar being strum along. Maybe some day (year... decade...) I'll take part in creating more of those times for myself and others - Lord willing. Wish me Lork (I don't believe in luck)!

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Wednesday, January 24th, 2007 - 1:52 AM

"The Biggest (Hair) Loser"

I recently discovered that self-imposed hair loss can be a good thing. I think there may have been 2 or 3 times in my life when I had more hair than this past week... but I'm not absolutely certain. I was becoming a strange and hideous creature. Some people gain head hair with grace. For me, it turns me into The Flying Saucepan Spectacle. To demonstrate my incredible transformation, here are before and after haircut photos:

Before my haircut by yours truly
Before: Flying Saucepan Spectacle

I'm a new man!
After: Normal Phil restored (normal for Phil,
but extremely abnormal for the average human being)

Speaking of haircuts, I have only had one professional haircut in my entire life, and it cost me about $1 - and it was in Brazil just a few years ago. My mom has cut my hair most all of my life, and fortunately (somehow my monetary fortune isn't much to speak of - more of a blessing type of fortune) for me she doesn't charge. More recently I have taken to cut my own hair using an electric trimmer with various attachments and the like. I have an unpatented method of getting a pretty straight line in the back too! :)

So what's your life's haircut story? How much do you spend, who cuts your hair? Any weird hairstyles worth mentioning. I've had pretty much the same hairstyle my whole life... maybe altering just a bit here and there. No coloring, all natural, etc. etc. etc.

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