andvaka: (Default)
This last week I went off to the National Guitar Workshop. (

It was amazing.

But first, last Friday, Kellie and I traversed down to the Kansas City metro area to go to Rhodri and Marie's wedding. It was a blast. I'm sorry I had to cut it short, but I still wasn't feeling the best and figured sleep would be good. It was.

Saturday morning I got up at some sort of ridiculous hour, and was driven to the airport. The flights were okay, I had no problems with my guitar going through security. I did have a small problem with my guitar. It is somewhat large, and absolutely couldn't fit on the first flight. So my guitar was gate-checked. (I was expecting this, and so put her into a flight case.) The stewardess was very nice and very helpful in ensuring that the baggage people treated her right, and they did. I got my guitar back right after the plane landed and all was right. Now, having said that, we were delayed 45 minutes due to the MASSIVE rainfall in Chicago, but all turned out right. I managed to get to the gate for the next flight in plenty of time.

I had to gate-check my guitar again, which was fine, because the baggage guy played as well. Now, having said that, gate-checking baggage into Hartford will involve the bag meeting you at the terminal baggage claim area. Which meant my guitar went on the baggage carousel. That was a little nerve-wracking but it was all good.

I found the guy who was driving me to the Workshop (it's in New Milford, about 1.5 hours drive from Hartford), and we were waiting for one more person. Driving with us was a kid from Mexico City, and Jody Fisher, a fantastic jazz guitarist who was an instructor. We finally got our stray passenger, Dave, a guy who looks like a death-metal guitarist (which he is), carrying an acoustic guitar.

We got to the camp, and we all checked in. Dave and I were put in one of the dorms, and thought we were the only people there. It was hot. 95 or so, and humid as hell, and the dorm did not have air-conditioning. My barracks-like single room had a window, but no breeze. Fans were acquired from the Workshop the next day (they had some to lend out), but that night was hot. After some separate exploring that took us until late, Dave and I met back in the dorm common's room. At that point, I discovered, by him showing me, that he is a fantastic acoustic fingerstyle guitarist. I found out later that he was a semi-finalist in the Six String Theory Acoustic Competition which means he came there on basically a scholarship, to compete with the other 7 semi-finalists in that competition. I wasn't really aware of current developments in fingerstyle acoustic playing, so watching someone fingerpicking, using hammer-ons and pull-offs, percussion and tap harmonics was really impressive to me.

Sunday was check in day, and since we checked in on Saturday, we were at liberty until 2 pm Sunday. (We did have to collect our fans, and I had to get the practice amp I was renting.) In that time, we met Martin, a Swede who was also a semi-finalist, and Aaron, yet another semi-finalist. These guys are excellent. This constituted the core crew for the week.

Orientation happened on Sunday, which was really somewhat boring. Our first class happened as well.

A note about classes. You pick a class that you will follow through the week. For example, I was in the “Blues Performance” class, which used to be the “Blues Core” class. The class was structured around a lot of theory, about a quarter of which I can use now, a quarter of which I sort of understand and about half of which makes my head spin. In addition, I was part of two ensembles, one of whom would play one and the other of whom would play 2 songs at the Thursday night concert. My acoustic friends were part of the “Acoustic Roots” class, which met longer than I did, but did not have the ensemble groups. They did a song as a class at the concert. (The next time I go, I will take one of the specialty classes. “The Chess Men” sounded good. As did “Atomic Blues”.)

My first class was actually very short, with basic introductions, and then evaluations. The class was split into two sections, Beginners and Not-Beginners. Some of that was "people who are passionate and serious" and "Kids and people who aren't".The evaluations were in private, so we spent a lot of time in the hall meeting people. I met Paul, Paul, Jeff and Laurie, who in various ways would make up my ensembles. They were also the people in the class around my age.

I walked into the evaluation and told the instructor (Kevin McNeal, a GOOD jazz and blues musician) that I was likely a beginner. He sat me down, and asked me to name some bluesmen. I got two out and he shut me up. (Albert King and Albert Collins seemed to satisfy him.) I was asked to play a minor pentatonic scale, which I did. We tried to get distracted talking about the good parts of the Gibson ES-339 v. the ES-335, but the intern/co-instructor kept us on track. I was asked to play some bar chords, and then riff or play a song. I played a riff that I always go back to, improving some of it. Long story short, I was told I was intermediate.

The rest of class was some theory, some more introductions, and some playing.

After dinner, there was the first of two Faculty Concerts. (Faculty Proving Grounds to quote Dave.) It was good, but not great. The faculty were very good, but all of them tended to slow, quiet stuff. Kevin did a Coltrane number.

After that concert, we four decided that a trip to the local bar was in order. Aaron had driven so we had wheels. 59 Bank is the name of the bar. Nice place, had some IPA microbrews on tap, but since I dislike IPAs, I stuck with Guiness. Needless to say, it became a late night. We closed the bar at 1 am, then stayed up a little later.

Monday started the real workout. First, class, which deep dove into theory. Then the first ensemble. It was all adults, and based around playing a blues song or two. It was me, two Pauls, and Laurie (all of us on guitars). Our “instructors/facilitators” for this was a Workshop instructor named Tim Ferguson, who taught me a lot about improv-ing leads, and a drummer named Yuichi Hirakawa, who again was fantastic.

At the end of the ensemble session, we had decided, with Yuichi's help, that we would play “Cross-Cut Saw” as an instrumental. We weren't sure at that point if there was anything else we wanted to do.

After lunch, class again, then the afternoon ensemble. That added another guitarist named Jeff. By the end of the week, I could do with this Jeff what I can do with my usual Jeff, namely make an interesting “huh” noise, and have him know what I was on about. That and ask the question he was about to.

That ensemble was the blues rock one, so we decided to play “People Get Ready”, we also later that week decided on a version of Crossroads. (Clapton lyrics, modified guitar parts).

After all that, it was 4 pm. There were various small hour long classes that day. I was going to take one but decided a nap was in order. After playing a bit, I slept until dinner at 6. (We had a free hour from 5-6, and another from 7-8 or so. I usually practiced during the 7 pm hour.)

The second faculty concert started at 8. It started with Jody Fisher playing a jazz number, solo, that was just simply incredible, and I don't like jazz. There were a couple rock numbers done amazingly well. The teacher of the "Chess Men" class did some Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. The Acoustic Roots teacher did a Blind Lemon Jefferson number. In the end, it was just fantastic.

That night, we all crashed out reasonably early.

Tuesday was much the same as Monday, but the concert started with the Acoustic Competition. These guys were damned good. All of them were fantastic and if I were a judge I would have had a hard time picking who won. As it turned out it was a guy named David, an Irishman from Boston. After that it was an open mike night of concerts.

After all that concert, we left to go to the bar. We in this case essentially comprised my core four (including me), two older gentlemen, and the rest of the acoustic competition. Now, we knew there was an acoustic open mike night at the bar as well, but everyone deliberately left their guitars at home. Unfortunately for the good intentions, there was a bar guitar. So all the acoustic players went up to play. All were good, but my favorite highlight was the death metal acoustic version of “Dust in the Wind”. We closed the bar and then some, and went back. There was a run for soda, which resulted in free donuts.

Wednesday was much the same, except that Ronnie Earl taught a masterclass on blues anyone who wanted to show up. He is an incredible guitarist, and a very nice man. I like Ronnie a lot, and not the least of which is that he invited me to call him that. I would have loved to go on stage and play like some people did, but alas no.
Also Wednesday night was the Six String Theory Blues competition. All the guys were good, but the winner was very clear. The first two guys were technically proficient, but kind of lost the feel of the blues. The third guy was amazing, but did not show that he could bring his own feeling to the table. The fourth guy had the feel, but not quite the chops. The last guy had it all and clearly should have, and did win.

Thursday was more of the same, but our concert was that night. Thursday night, all the various ensembles showed off their talent by playing a piece or two live. Long story short? I need some work on the guitar, and don't completely suck as a singer. (Yes, I said singer. For a number of reasons I agreed/wanted to sing half of Crossroads. However, I got nervous about it, so I took an hour voice lesson from the voice instructor Sonja. She was really good at showing me some exercises to train my voice, and we worked out a way of singing Crossroads that I could do. She was great to work with!) But it was a lot of fun. Thursday night we went back to the bar, and avoided (mostly) the karaoke. There were a lot of people staying up late to extend the week.

And Friday we packed up, had a last class, and myself and three of the guys I had been spending time with were driven to the airport by the transport company. After saying bye to one, the other two (Dave and Colin) and I sat and talked for a few hours, whereupon they had to go through security.

I found my way to the hotel connected to the airport, where they stuck me in a very comfy room, and I awaited the next morning and my 6 am flight back to reality.

In the end, will I go again? Hell yes. It was amazing. I learned a lot and learned what I don't know and how to fix it. I badly want to go next year, although I think I can't afford it. (I wish I could.) I also want to do Pennsic. Definitely the year after.
andvaka: (Default)
Now, this is based off of how it was told to me while I was studying Russian history. My facts are correct, but the way I tell it is a little more fun for me.

A story of Vladimir I, Prince of Kiev )
andvaka: (Default)
I may be intense about some things.

I do not have celiac, as of the last test. I am wheat intolerant, so for the majority of things it is better if I avoid wheat altogether. Gluten free foods are fantastic for this.

There is a liquor store in Omaha advertising a new type of vodka as gluten free. I'm not sure who wrote that ad copy, but I dislike it.


Well, read my letter to the store:

Hello there,

A friend pointed me to your site, and while I am not sure who writes your ad copy, I am concerned about the misinformation inherent in your promotional page.

You are advertising CooranBong Vodka as being gluten-free, as if this were a special feature. (I am specifically looking at your promotions page of today.)

All vodka, unless flavored where the flavorings add gluten, are gluten free. Most distilled alcohol is gluten free by the very nature of the distilling process. I would direct you to the following blog entry: (while I recognize that this blog is not the most scientific, a quick Google search turns up more articles about this).

While I heartily agree with the fact that is trying to bring in gluten-free beers, to advertise that a particular brand of vodka is gluten-free does a disservice to celiac sufferers, and frankly, does a disservice to your store. If people believe that distilled spirits are not gluten-free, they will buy less.

Thank you,
andvaka: (Default)
Hey all,

I had made plans to go to WisCon in Madison this weekend. For my mental health (I've been a wee bit stressed the last three weeks), I'm not going. So...if there is anyone going, who hasn't prereged, I have an admission for sale. Ping me privately?

andvaka: (Default)
First, these are totally my opinions only. They are not "rules" but more my personal rules for how to do court heraldry. Feel free to disagree. I list them as "rules" and "philosophical points" but seriously, they're my opinions only.

Second, the Crown wins. Always. If there is ever a debate between what the court herald wants and what the Crown wants...the Crown wins.

Court Heraldry Guidelines

1. Write it down. Use a script with notes. There is nothing so bad as standing up in court and forgetting who Their Majesties are. It happens, and it even happens to the best heralds, so write it down.

For example, I write down a boast, the introduction to court (“Here opens the Court of their Royal Majesties John and Jane”), and a list of what’s going to happen in that court (each name of people called in, spelled phonetically, and the award they are going to get.)

You will want to remember to have or copy the relevant parts of the Book of Ceremonies, such as the fealty oaths (if their Majesties are taking fealties) or any peerage ceremonies.

2. Never let the Crown be surprised.

You and the Crown should know what is going to happen in court. Its your job to inform the Crown if people want to make presentations, give gifts, or speak to them. If someone wants time to talk to the populace, you should know what the speech is about and tell the Crown.

There is one exception that can be very rarely used. If there is to be a surprise gift to the Crown, ask to see it yourself. Decide whether it’s an appropriate surprise. (The few times I’ve seen this work, the surprise has been gifts of money or a tasteful personal gift from a good friend of the Crown.) . Then ask the Crown, “X has a cool surprise for you, I’ve SEEN it and it’s okay and in good taste. Do you want to see it ahead of time?” (Making this choice puts your reputation for taste, honor and tact at risk. Use only in circumstances where you are 100% sure the Crown won't mind being surprised. If They want to see the surprise, make it happen and don't argue.)

3. Never let yourself be surprised.

This means that you should meet with their Majesties far enough in advance of court to prepare a court list (see number 1 above), to pre-read scrolls and figure out how to pronounce names. Its sometimes useful to ask people who are in the same group as the person getting the award how to pronounce that person’s name.

4. Precedence happens.

You need to be aware of the precedence of matters in court.
In Northshield, when facing the audience, the Queen is on the right, the King is on the left. The next ranking people sit to the Sovereign’s side. The second-next ranking people sit to the Consort’s side.

Never assume that the royalty will choose to follow the standard procedure.

5. The Crown can overrule any of these rules.

Three philosophical points about court heraldry:

1. As a court herald, you should be an impersonal provider of hands, eyes and voice. You are a set of skills in service to the Crown or the presiding nobles, and it should make no difference who you are. For that reason, leave the badges of office, rank, household affiliation and such like off when you are heralding. Alternatively, cover them with a tabard. See 2.

2. Wear the tabard of the person you’re working for. For one thing, it makes you look like you are part of the court. For another, it covers up things like belts and medallions. Finally, wearing the tabard identifies you, clearly, as being the voice of the Crown/Coronet/whoever.
It may be appropriate to wear your local group’s herald tabard, but you should ask the Crown.

3.If you're a senior staff member for an event, don't be the court herald too.
andvaka: (Default)
My previous comment was not really a call to action, although my brain started working on it afterwards. (However, I know me and I'd forget about it.)

Really, its all part of something I've been thinking about for awhile. I think we as a College need to start working on heraldic education. On all levels. But more importantly, we need to start making heraldry fun again.

And I admit, I have limited clue on how to do that, but I know for a fact there are people smarter than me in this area who can help figure it out. :)

Now, I opine a lot, and I want to talk about that a moment. Sometimes changes need to be made to things. I think that change needs to be thoughtful. I think that jumping in to CHANGE THIS NOW does two things, it alienates the people you're trying to work with, and it causes people to want to beat you down. (Yes, my Calontiri friends, I did learn my lesson, I still have the scars, but they were Friendly Lessons.) Yes, that presumes you have to work with someone...but you ALWAYS have to work with someone.

I think that looking at things, from all angles, getting opinions, working on it a bit more, and formulating your opinon in as clear a way as possible is good. Then I think asking...ASKING...the Powers that Be (and there are always powers that be, no matter how high you are) what their opinion is and thoughts are, and offering thoughtful commentary is the best way to do things. Sometimes you won't be able to effect change.

Change in the SCA is like water hitting rock. While it may take a long time to do it, eventually the rock wears away. Only rarely, and then you had better be damned sure where you stand and have a ton of people on your back, can you pull off a tsunami of change. Usually it isn't worth it. Sometimes its needed, but normally incremental change is better.
andvaka: (Default)
Wow, I'm chatty today.

So, Court Heralds. I have been seeing a trend recently in my two favorite Kingdoms to continually use the same court heralds in a reign. (In fact, Calontir seems to have put into place an "official" court herald who does most courts.)

Whereupon Gabriel discusses why this is a mistake in his not quite humble opinion... )
Perhaps tonight I'll pull out my Gabriel's Court Heraldry Rules (which are more like guidelines), and post. Why yes, I made them up for a class I taught a few times.

Kingdom A&S

May. 9th, 2011 09:23 am
andvaka: (Default)
We went to Kingdom A&S this last weekend. It was fun for me, despite not being a particularly arts related person. (I am thinking of breaking free of that mold. While I can sew, sortof, it would be fun to challenge myself. So, the tentative plan is for Caoilfhionn to work with me on my hand sewing and then my Norse embroidery this winter on a hood. I figure that it should be done by K.A&S 2013...(MAYBE 2012)).

Wherein Gabriel contemplates his fun levels in the SCA, thoughts on peerages and thoughts on A&S )

And that's pretty much it. Time to go work.
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