The Royal Room ~ Seattle

My big band, the Seattle Solid Gold, performed at the Royal Room in Seattle this week. No, really! It was in South Seattle which can be a sketchy part of town. Parking was … well, let’s just say challenging. But the venue was nice, albeit small. Had one fellow in the band show up without his music. Sigh … but I always have a spare tablet so we were okay. Had a sub show up without a stand. But the staff had extra stands which was rather nice. And for a three hour gig, they had *very* nice padded chairs.

Brian Fioca, a professional photographer showed up. It was a dark room, but before he worked on the photos he took, he sent me a couple of fresh proofs. The shots were very nice, we really like his work. I showed the proofs around during the first break and each person talked about how they looked in the photo.

This is a new vocalist for us, David Francis. He set up this performance for the band. He wanted to sing with a big band. What a fab experience and working with a pro like David, it took only two practices to add all the new charts he wanted in the mix. I had tried to get on their docket but David made it a done deal.

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The Summer of Music 2022

As we exit the pandemic constraints and start performing again, there is a collective sigh of relief from the band and the audience. We happened upon a pro photographer, Brian Fioca who took some pictures this year. Life is good.

Lauren has been our solo clarinetist and sax player for over five years. She has a great stage presence and sweet clarinet sound.

One of my all-time fav sax sections there is a huge depth of experience here. The fraternity is amazing, the sound delightful, and work ethic high.

Pro tip, if you want to pick the music that your band plays, start your own band. That’s what I did with the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band about 17 years ago. Suzy made the fronts for us. Cam is the amazing director. And I have so many besties in this ensemble.

We have a number of amazing vocalists who have graced this band with their amazing voicings over the years. Here is Robin doing that thang she does so well.

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Garage Door Replacement Upgrade

Our 15-year old garage door openers (two) finally gave out. Well, that is to say, mine did–it gets used the most. So we went for a quiet, belt driven model that could be accessed by our phone. If you do it yourself and for two doors, it’s around $500 in parts. But we paid a very experienced fellow $1000.

He also replaced one of the heavy-duty (and very dangerous by the way) springs used to control the heavy door load. The other spring was replaced when we moved in ten years ago. And he tightened down all the rails. His time, 5 hours. Bonus the new unit has two lights and with the advent of LED lights, we no longer are limited to 60 watt bulbs.

Pictures and instructions for do it yourselfer are here: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Chamberlain-CHA-1-2HP-BELT-DRIVE-GDO-WITH-WIFI/5002862169

The belt should last a long time, I think I was told 20 years but we’ll see. It is a steel reinforced belt that should allay any concerns about the rubber wearing out.

Bonus: If our door opens we get an alert on my phone. If I can’t remember if I closed the garage door, I can check the door status. And if it is open and I’m at a gig, I can close the garage door from that location.

I was putzing around the garage, getting lawn tools out and thought that in some ways I miss the loud garage door opener. I always knew when Suzy came home and could hear it when I was in my car closing it at night after coming home from band practice. But then, I’m just being silly I guess.

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Tips on Making your House Safe from Burglaries

I thought I’d share this post I wrote some years ago. I really need to write a post about creating a community where neighbors watch out for each other. If your neighbors have contact info they can let you know, for example, when you’ve left your garage door open at night.

The Bis Key Chronicles

DSCF1052Making your house safe from burglaries is something that I have preached to my family and friends. The trick is to make your house the hardest one to break into on your street. Because so many people are lazy about this, either because they don’t want to think about something so horrible or because they are ‘too busy’, it should be easy to rise above the norm.

Why should a thief work so hard to break into your house if the neighbor’s house is easier, usually way easier?

I have 20 years military experience, in the Corps of Engineers, three years as a security guard and then security guard manager in college and have done a lot of reading and research on the matter. But I am always trying to get the list of things so do down to a manageable few. Here is my prioritized list today:

1. Own…

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Roof Replacement Trials and Tribulations

Our house had a 25-year roof put on by the builder in 2007. Last year we discovered some serious leaks in the roof. Sadly we had just put in a solar panel system that had to be removed first. It took us 6 months to find someone to do that job, the company that did the original placement jerked us around for 4 months before we gave up on them. Oh, and apparently now many solar installation companies now have a clause that sez they will remove and then put back up the panels for roof repair. Who knew?

We had to replace nine 4X8 foot plywood pieces because the leakage damaged them. It was amazing watching the repairmen schlep the wood up the ladder without a lift. The home across the street had huge lift equipment to lift the shingles, wood, and such to the top of that house. There was no metal flashing on our original roofing job. Now we have metal flashing all away around the roof and in the joints where the roof changes planes, and such.

We decided to do copper metal roofs on the two small roof parts and a 40-year shingle for the rest of the roof. We discovered the leak because we suddenly had mice in the house and that had to be fixed too. And during the mouse (actually) extermination, we also discovered the dryer vent stopped in the attic so there was mold everywhere. That mitigation required us to clean and treat the attic and crawlspace, replace all insulation, put a sump pump in the crawlspace and fix the venting.

We also had all the old vents removed and put a ridge vent that runs the length of the house so the roof looks much cleaner. There were nine 8 X 10′ vents and now the venting is invisible. Bonus, the venting is at the absolute top of the attic space so there is no heat pooling up at the top like there was with the old vents. They also painted all the exhaust pipes from the plumbing and heating black, so they disappeared from view too.

A normal roofing job with no extras goes for around $16,000. With the solar removal, reinstallation, metal roof, panel replacement and flashing upgrade we spent $30,000. But, it looks like this will be the last roof we put on in the ~30 years of life we have left.

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Solar Power Project 2020

“We are star stuff harvesting sunlight.” ~ Carl Sagan

After charting solar panel savings for 20 years, we finally decided to bite the bullet with our house. We spent the summer reviewing contracts, starting the build, and finally in November turning on the system. We didn’t want the hassle of batteries (cost, maintenance, and eventual replacement) so we opted for the sell back to the grid model. That was a big savings on the installation cost. We also paid the cost up front rather than expensing it through the years on our electric bill. So, there is no interest costs.

Well now it is a year later and how did we do?

This chart shows power expenditure from Nov 2019 to Nov 2021. The first year is without solar. So we paid $640 less dollars this year over last. Note we got a slow start on the benefits but at that rate of savings it would take us 45 years to pay off the cost of solar panel installation. It is a much lower pay off rate than I had anticipated. But as the cost of electricity goes up, we might hope to break even much sooner. And you can cut that in half once we get the tax credit for the installation that I and my tax professional forgot to apply for last year!

You know I’ve heard of a tax for being progressive (aka liberal) like paying extra for a Prius for the good of planet Earth and our children. Let’s hope that I can get a more favorable break on this project in the coming years.

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Project Du Jour: Learn to Play Bass

It turns out the jazz ensemble in the community band my wife and I play in needs a bass player. The group isn’t very accomplished (yet) and in four years they have never been able to attract a bass player. So the trumpet player, asst. director has been playing the bass part. Me thinks I see the beginning of a very nice project for myself, learning to play bass guitar.

Now I’ve had three basses hanging on the wall of my house for over 20 years. No, really! When I returned to playing the sax I used a bass guitar I procured at a local pawn shop for $50. My intent then was to work on my rhythm. I’d turn on the radio and play bass against some of the simpler songs. It actually was fun. And I have played guitar since high school, albeit not putting any time into it.

I pulled out my trusty axe, tuned it using a free tuner on the internet, and got my 10 watt practice amp out. Then I watched two “Playing Beginning Bass Guitar” vids on YouTube. So far so good. Still hafta figure out if the active pickup on the Peavy is more trouble than it is worth. And I think I’ll pass on the pedal.

Then I pinged the director and this thread ensued.

Bob: I’ve attached copies of the combo music we’re playing. This isn’t what we’d play next season, but it gives us something to play around with a smaller group and see how the rhythm section comes together. So, this is a good time to jump in.

I think we might play Satin Doll next year (full band arrangement), but I’m still debating others.    You can find partial recordings of two of these combo pieces (not Satin Doll) online. I generally play along to a backing track of Satin Doll and have to fake through the arrangement, but gives me a chance to get the rhythm down. “It Don’t Mean A Thing” is the most challenging because of the tempo. Enjoy.

Me: Thx, I am on it.

Then I ordered this lesson book:

Note, I’m not learning guitar tab notation as I really need to read the music like I do on my sax. Also, I will need a bass amp to play with the group so I ordered this one. It’s powerful enough to hold up to a big band and light enough that I won’t need two men and a boy to carry it.

May be an image of text that says 'Peavey MAX 208 200-Watt Bass Amp Combo Visit the Peavey Store 16 ratings TAEY $399.99 prime & FREE Returns Get $200 Gift Card: Pay $199 $399.99 upon approval for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. annual fee. Color Eligible for amazon mile donation. Brand Peavey Black Output Wattage 200 Watts Dimensions LxWxH inches Item Weight Pounds About this item Up 200 watts power 2Premium speakers DDT speaker protection .Pre-gain control with TransTube qain boost Three-band with Overdrive, Contour, Mid-Shift, Bright, and Kosmos-C switches Compare with similar items New (8) from $399. 99 prime'

AMP: Me: Lots of bass players sub for us with skimpy amps and it’s not a good experience. On bari sax I double them a lot and can tell when they are really underpowered. It’s like people don’t wanna spend the money for the best they can get and then they hafta live with that decision the rest of their lives.

A friend sez about this amp: Haha. Your analysis is correct!

I have a 75 watt practice amp made by Line 6. They don’t make it any more. 75 watts is over powered for a house or a small practice room. But like you said, you need the “head room” of more watts for the tonal space. Why? because you can put the volume at a level where it is loud and play subtly with your fingers. You don’t have to dig in. Between your finger placement on the guitar, the settings on the amp, and your bass – you provide yourself the broadest tonal options.

For me, not having a gigging amp means that I only gig when someone really wants a bass player and can provide an amp – as your group has on occasion for me. Not having that equipment forces me to focus on other things that are musically more enriching for me. Not a boast, a technique that I have employed to keep myself sane because music is part of my mental health.

In the old days, power also meant weight, lots of weight. Any big open room, like the old Microsoft Café, needed at least 200 watts. Anything outside, you might want to make the minimum 300watts. There just are no “do it all” amps for bass unfortunately.

STRINGS: And have someone put flat wounds (or half rounds by D’addario) on it and have it set-up. Better for your sound and fingers as a new player. You will prefer the sound and less string noise. It’s what I always play on my P-style bass. The Peavey is a nice but it has active electronics, more of a bass. That’s too much to manage for a beginner. I would suggest consider a pickup upgrade in the Rogue if you want to get a little more out of the bass.

Another friend sez: That is purely a matter of what kind of sound you want.  I used round wound for years.  They are very bright with a strong attack and tend to buzz a lot if you don’t have good technique.  They are also tough on your fingers and fretboard.  I then switched to flat wounds and have been very happy with the warmer sound. 

However, since I have two fretless basses, I wanted one to have a bit more growl.  I discovered Pressure wounds that split the difference and have been very happy with them.  That is what I was using Monday night.

So I ordered these as there is a lot of fingering noise on my guitar right now:

I am working on my first song from the group and hoping that in January I have also made my way to page 15 of the lesson book (above). I can join them as they prepare the three songs they will be playing for the Winter concert in March. Wish me luck!

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Gettin’ Stuff Done

I like having projects, lots of them. But some sit on the whiteboard as a ToDo list thang for *way* too long.

So what kind of things are on my whiteboard today. Here’s a snapshot in the life of me.

  1. PDF a new chart for the GOLD Big Band (All I Need is the Girl)
  2. Fix leak under kitchen sink and replace rotten wood under there
  3. Repair/replace the Little Library in the Waxen Park
  4. Pressure wash the driveway
  5. Paint wall in entryway
  6. Clean Garage (this has been on my list for over five years)
  7. Fix patio door
  8. Paint siding patches the same color as siding
  9. Clear upstairs hallway
  10. Remove and recycle patio awning

What is the chance that when I happen to look at this post years from now that some of these might be done? Besides using the results from the chore, much of the joy comes from actually completing a job. This week, for example, I was happy to finally (and with the help of my phone service provider) remove three old devices from my account, enroll in autopay/paperless billing, and add the military discount to my account. So much joy!

I hafta say that some jobs that I delay because I think they will be gnarly actually turn out to be amazingly simple. For example changing out the worn out shocks in the SUV back door only took 10 minutes… if that? You live for chores like that.

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Meet Abby, a Sweet Collie

Abby was born on 31 March 2021 and named after Abigail “Abby” Sciuto of NCIS. She is a rough collie with a merle blue coat. We got her at SnoValley Collies in Issaquah, WA. Within a week of joining the family she has learned sit, down, and come. She loves people, other dogs, and life. She is not afraid of fireworks, which is a first for the dogs we’ve had.

During her first week with us, we were also babysitting Mitsi who immediately took over duties of training the puppy. Mitsi would NOT let Abby be rude or too rambunctious. We didn’t plan it that way, but it really worked out well and we’d recommend that formula for anyone with a new puppy.

Abby loves mommy the bestest which is a first for us. But why wouldn’t she, this is the first dawg that Suzy has ever picked out herself. She also got to meet my sister Deb who was visiting that month.

Such a mellow dawg, Abby has helped us as we said goodbye to Dad and moved mom to a full-care facility. She is the bestest stress relief in a very cute, small package.

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Good Bye Dad

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