04-28-15 - Guitar and Teaching

I'm sort of vaguely trying to learn guitar again as a late night alternative to TV.

I'm at the point I always hit where I lose steam. I can play some basic stuff, but not anything too difficult. The problem is I have trouble finding fun songs to play that aren't too hard, or finding songbooks or teach-yourself books that are both fun and not too hard.

What I really want, and what I think is the right way to teach guitar to a dabbler like me is :

A book songs, in progression of difficulty

The songs need to be modern (post-60's), fun, familiar
(classic rock is pretty safe)

The songs need to be the *actual* songs.  Not simplified versions.  Not transposed versions.
Not just the chords when the real song is much more complex.

When I play it, it needs to sound like the actual recording.

No funny tunings.  I can't be bothered with that.

and so far as I know nothing like that exists.

I've got a bunch of "easy rock guitar songbooks" and they all fucking suck.

There are lots of good tabs on the internet, and I've found some good stuff to learn that way, but fuck that. The last thing I want to be doing in my relaxing time is browsing the internet trying to decide which of the 400 fucking versions of the "Heartbreaker" tab is the right one I should try to learn.

(in the past I taught myself some classical guitar, and in contrast there are lots of great classical, and even finger-picking folk guitar song books and instructional progressions that give you nice songs to learn that are actually fun to play and sound like something)

I've tried taking lessons a few times in the past and the teachers always sucked. Maybe they were good in terms of getting you to be a better player, but they were awful at making it fun.

I had a teacher who wanted me to sit with a metronome and just pick the same note over and over to the metronome to work on my meter. WTF. You're fired. All teachers want you to play scales. Nope. And then for the "fun" part they want to teach some basic rock rhythm, A-A-E-E,A-A-E-E. Nope, I'm bored. You're fired. Then I get to learn a song and it's like some basic blues I've never heard of or some fucking John Denver or something. (*)

They seem to completely fail to understand that it has to keep the student interested. That's part of your job being a teacher. I'm not trying to become a professional musician. I don't have some great passionate motivation that's going to keep me going through the boring shit and drudgery of your lessons. You have to make it fun all the time.

(* = there is some kind of weird thing where people who play music generally have horrible taste in music. It's like they pay too much attention to either the notes/chord/key or to the technical playing, neither of which actually matter much. It's the feeling, man.)

It was interesting for me to see this in ceramics. I was lucky to find a really great teacher (Bill Wilcox) who understood that it had to be fun, and that this was a bit of a lark for most of us, and some were more serious than others. Maybe he wasn't the most efficient teacher in terms of conveying maximum learning in a set time period - but he kept you coming back. We occasionally had different guest teachers, and they were way more regimented and methodical and wanted you to do drills (pull a cylinder 20 times and check the walls for evenness), and you could see half the class thinking "fuck this"

I suppose this is true of all learning for some kids. Some kids are inherently motivated, I'm going to learn because I'm supposed to, or to get into a good college, or "for my future", or to be smarter than everyone else, or whatever. But other kids see a cosine and think "wtf is that for, who cares".

I've always thought the right way to teach anything is with a goal in mind. Not just "hey learn this because you're supposed to". But "we want to build a catapult and fire it and hit a target. Okay, we're going to need to learn about angles and triangles and such...". The best/easiest/deepest learning is what you learn because you need to learn it to accomplish something that you want to do.

What I need in guitar is a series of mini goals & accomplishments. Hey here's this new song, and it's a little bit too hard for me, but it's a fucking cool song so I actually want to play it. So I practice for a while and get better, and then I can play it, yay! Then I move on to the next one. Just like good game design. And WTF it just doesn't seem to exist.


04-24-15 - Typical Email Experience

I write very careful emails with clear points and specific questions, something like :

Hello, yes blah blah some stuff.  I need to know these points :

1. What about A?

2. There is also b?

3. and finally C?

and I usually get a response like :

Yep, great!

Umm. WTF. You are fucking fired from your job, from life, from the planet, go away.

Yep to what? There were THREE questions in there. And none of them was really a yes/no question anyway. WTF.

So I'll try to be polite and send back something like -

Thanks for the response; yes, to what exactly?  Did you mean yes to A?

Also I still need to know about B & C.

and then I'll get a response like :

Ok, on B we do this and that.

Umm. Okay, that's better. We got one answer, but THERE WERE THREE FUCKING QUESTIONS. I fucking numbered them so you could count them. That means I need three answers.

Sometimes I'll get a response like :

Ramble ramble, some unrelated stuff, sort of answer maybe A and C but not exactly, some
other rambling.

Okay. Thanks for writing a lot of words, but I HAD SPECIFIC FUCKING QUESTIONS.

This is basic fucking professionalism.

Jesus christ.


04-20-15 - Vitamin D

This post is a month or two too late, since we're now into the sun-times (I hope, fingers crossed), but anyway.

Everybody knows when you move to Seattle and get SAD you have to take vitamin D. So all these years I've been taking a few Vit D pills every day in the winter.

Recently my hair has been falling out, which has never happened to me before. I was pretty sure it was just stress, but I thought hey WTF may as well get a blood test and see if anything is wrong. So I get a blood test. Everything is normal, except -

My vit D levels were way way below normal. There's a normal range (3-7) and I was like a 1.

I was like, WTF? I take 1-2 vit D pills every day.

Turns out those pills are 1000 IU each, so I was taking 1-2000 IU. I thought that was a hell of a lot (it's ten million percent of the US RDA). Nope, not a lot. My doc said I could take 8000-10,000 IU to get my levels back up to normal, then maintenance was more like 5000 IU.

So, I started taking big doses, and BOOM instant happiness. More energy, less depression.

I still fucking hate the gray and the wet. (I recently got some foot fungus from hiking on a rainy day. I hate the fucking wet. I'd like to live on Arrakis and never see a single drop of rain again in my life.) But hey with proper vit D dosing I don't want to kill myself every day. Yay.

Pound that D, yo!


04-14-15 - Bend Oregon

Bend in a nutshell :

Restaurants here write "sando" on the menu when describing sandwiches.

I'm not talking about casual order-at-the-counter places with "crazy" graphics. I mean fancier places with good food. Not conversation, written word. "House-made roast beef sando with blue cheese and carmelized onions". Sando.

Bend has two primary demographics :

The rednecks, which unfortunately still infest so much of Oregon (including, surprisingly, even quite a lot of Portland, mainly on the outside, like a nasty fiery red infection around the anus of liberal Portland). The rednecks wear flannel and baseball caps, drive big trucks, they like off-roading, beer and dogs.

The snowboarders. They wear flannel, baseball caps, drive big trucks, like snowboarding, beer and dogs.

They're actually easy to tell apart. The snowboarders wear $100 designer Helly Hansen flannel, the rednecks wear cheap Walmart flannel.

No, actually you can tell them apart because the rednecks are all so damn ugly. They're constantly angry, they don't smile at you, they stomp around and have bad posture. The contrast is severe, which brings us to the next point :

Bend is the happiest place I have ever seen in my life. It's fucking ridiculous.

For Oddworlders, it's like a town full of Bonnies. For Tash, it's a town full of Bagleys.

Everyone is clear-eyed, that bright clear eye sweetness you get from lots of exercise and being outdoors, that gives you inner peace and patience and just fixes everything. Everyone is so sweet and friendly in a real way, not in that syrupy phoney Southern way.

Kids just walk down the street. There were sweet little kids playing everywhere. People ride their bikes to the corner restaurant and just leave it on the rack unlocked.

It's a fucking utopia.

It's horrible being around those positive, sweet, wholesome people who have great life priorities and friends and seem to have fun doing anything. It makes me sick. You are everything I should be in life and am not. They're the kind of people who buy their friends presents because they actually want to. The kind of people who stand up and dance in a bar when noone else is, and just don't even think about it and laugh and have a great time. I hate you so much. It must be the way ugly girls feel when they visit LA.

Everyone in Bend is a massive alcoholic. When you order your coffee in the morning, they ask if you want a craft brewed IPA with that. There's a brewery per person.

On the down side, there is no road biking around Bend. It's supposed to be this biking mecca, but I guess just for mountain bikes. I think road biking in Oregon is probably shit everywhere. There are no nice dis-used windy roads. God I miss the California biking. I can name like 20 truly epic rides on the west coast of the US and every single one of them is in CA. (roads with lots of traffic and/or no shoulder and/or bad pavement are all disqualified; morons who put things like Hwy 1 on the "good rides" list are morons).

So many fucking stinky trucks. I love to drive around and get that fresh piney mountain air, but every fucking place you go there's some damn F350 enormous monster belching soot in your face. It seems like maybe people in Oregon like diesel more than most of the US? I dunno, I've never noticed so many damn stinky trucks in my life. I guess in Texas I wouldn't even try to open my window.

Pros :



Cheap housing (relative to Seattle & Portland and of course CA)

Gorgeous (I love that dry piney stuff; better than the swampy crap west of the Cascades)

Ski all winter!

Sweet for kids (up until high school age or so, then toxic)

Great mountain biking

Cons :


No road biking

Nice people


Low population = less people to choose from

old rants