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Christmas Eve

We decided to take a family trip into Luxembourg City to visit the Christmas market this afternoon. We don’t get to do much together very often and, since the sun was shining, it seemed like a good idea.

Freya had a go on the merry-go-round, but got a bit upset after a minute or so, so Daddy jumped on to the rescue.

We had a banana coated in white chocolate, some sweeties and some gingerbread. It wasn’t until I took the pictures with Santa that I noticed the big E on the camera’s display. E, no doubt being for Error. None of the pictures had written to the card, so I reseated the card and that seemed to fix it. But by then we were on our way home. So all we got were a few pictures with Santa and a couple of pictures of Hamish. Better luck next year I suppose.

Amrit Sond: Genius or nutter?

This performance of Amrit Sond was recorded at RMMGA UK9 gathering at Hargate Hall in 2005. I heard him play this twice and, on each occasion, it was the same. At first I was like, WTF, but the more I listen to it, the more I see its musical merit. He’s pushing the boundaries of music on the acoustic guitar, and making us question the western conception of music. Amrit has an interesting background and it is manifesting itself in his music.

Oh, and he’s a humble and friendly guy with a great sense of humour. And he can also play more “conventional” music very well indeed. In fact, he won a Grammy for it.

So here’s Amrit:

RMMGA UK9: Amrit Sond



My guitar year: a brief review

Have you had a good guitar year?

My initial response to this was a resounding “no”, but I was tired, grumpy and overworked then. I’ve since been thinking about it some and there have been some pretty good highlights.

— The UK RMMGA gathering in March 2005. This is like the Little Brother Jam in Conyers GA, but with inverse proportions of Brits vs Americans (and a high contingent of Scots, for some reason). No matter where you go, acoustic guitar players are the nicest folks you will ever spend time with. I got to spend some quality time with Mark, a guy I met on the Internet, and even did a duet with me on guitar and him on small pipes. That was a lot of fun. I’m right looking forward to the next one!

— The song circle. So it hasn’t become the huge, life-changing event that I had hoped, but it has become a regular fixture in my playing and I’ve met some decent folks. There is a core of regulars and it’s settling into something good as we get to know each other better.

— The house concerts. Through the song circle, I became acquainted with a local guy who hosts house concerts. I got to see Eric Lugosch and “Philadelphia” Jerry Ricks this year, and even had the nerve to ask Eric for a lesson – he obliged and so there’s another highlight right there!

The Speak Easys. I pretty much only just discovered these, this time through the host of the house concerts. Basically it’s an open mic in a bar in down town Lux. I’ve played at two of them and met a bunch of decent folks. There should be some crossover with that and the song circles, each feeding from the other.

The LB Jam. This is a firm fixture in my annual guitar calendar. Each year I make the long journey from Luxembourg to Conyers, Georgia for a jam at my very good friend’s home. This year I taught a Celtic workshop, basically teaching how to flatpick the Butterfly, a slip jig. This was regurgitated from the lesson I got from Tony McManus at Kaufman Kamp in 2005.

The SCGC Vintage Artist. So it took a while, but it finally arrived at my home last Tuesday and I’m tickled pink with it. It truly is a terrific guitar and I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.

Do you feel you have progressed?

Not really, no. One thing that has happened is that I’ve gained some more respect for songs. My playing over the last few years has led me into fingerstyle, altered tunings, then flatpicking and working on my accompaniment. This year I’ve had very little time actually to sit down and work on new stuff, and I guess the song circle and speak easys have got me working on my repertoire of songs again. What I’ve come to realise is that three chords and the truth can sound awesome if the heart and soul are there. It’s a good and powerful thing to have learned. Everyone else seems to know this already; it’s just we guitar players who think it needs to be hard to be good!

What goals are you setting for yourself next year?

The only goals I can realistically keep are to keep playing. I know so many players who basically stalled to have a family and only really started progressing again after the kids were grown up. I’m not in any danger of quitting, but I do have to make sure that I don’t just plateau. I keep hearing songs that I think I would like to learn; I sat down with a Warren Zevon song [Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner] a few weeks back whilst watching Hamish and got it down pretty well. I can foresee more of that happening this year.

I also recently got a laptop, so, if time permits, I can sneak off to the back room with a DVD or some of Little Brother’s video lessons or whatever and try and work on progressing style wise.

Nativity scene


T’was the weekend before Christmas, and high time indeed to get the nativity scene set up. The stables are there all year round, jam packed with wooden animals that Freya really enjoys playing with. The nativity characters are a new addition. We cleared away many of the non-suitable nativity animals (I myself was chided when attempting to include a hippo) and organised a treasure hunt around the living room. Freya took great delight in finding the nativity characters hidden under and behind various bits of living room furnishings.

Where shall I put these?

We had a lot of fun setting it up and Freya really enjoyed herself. She doesn’t really get what it’s all about yet, but she can certainly sense that something is happening and is getting excited. She said a couple of weeks ago that she “wanted to go to Santa”.

She also enjoys pointing out all the Santas that are hanging from the wall’s of people’s houses on the way to and from the forest creche. When I was young we counted Christmas trees, but now there are Santas hanging off the walls all over the place.

Putting Jesus in the manger


We’ve struggled really hard to keep a mince pie fully in tact so that we can put it out on Christmas Eve for Santa. I was planning to get some more from Little Britain tomorrow, but the word on the street is that they’re close to being sold out. Hopefully they’ll have a nice Christmas stocking too, as Freya doesn’t have one. Shocking, huh?

First solids!

Our little Hamish just turned six months, which means it’s time to try him out with some solid foods. He tried some baby rice yesterday and seemed to enjoy it just fine. In fact, he didn’t want to let the spoon go!

Nom nom!



Six months old

Our cheeky little chappie just turned 6 months old. I was at Little Brother’s jam for the first time when Freya turned six months old. This time around I’m knee deep in translation and have just taken delivery of my SCGC Vintage Artist, which is sitting beside me all boxed up waiting to acclimatise. That’s the hardest bit – waiting for the box to acclimatise. It could prevent the finish from checking though, so it’s worth being patient for a little longer.

So, without further ado (much about nothing), he he is…

I’m half a year old!

Displaying iTunes album art

This has been bothering me for some time now, but it was one of those things that I just learned to live with. I’ve found in the past that it can be difficult to know what search term to enter into Google to find solutions for problems such as these.

So, what is the problem? I have a smart playlist that includes everything from my library, barring podcasts and audiobooks, that has a playcount of 0. As the tracks changed, the album art in the lower left-hand corner did not update. I would have to select iTunes and hit Ctrl L to select the track that was playing and have the album art update.

I decided today to try a quick search and entered this into Google: [itunes play shuffle album art doesn’t display].

That quickly led me to this post at macosxhints, whence I found another related post entitled
See album art for music in a shared iTunes library.

It says:

If you click on the top bar of the little album art window in the corner, and change it from “Selected Item” to “Now Playing”, you’ll be able to see artwork from the shared libraries as it plays. This has been working in iTunes for a few versions already, although it’s a bit hard to expose this functionality.

Here’s a screenshot showing the two options.

It’s just a small thing, but it had been annoying me for such a long time and it’s nice to have it finally resolved. Seemingly it will work with shared libraries too, although I haven’t tested that out yet.

Book Meme

1.  Grab the closest book to you.
2.  Open to page 123 and find the fifth sentence on the page.
3.  Post the following three sentences to your blog.
4.  Name the book and the author.
5.  Tag three more people (and I’m assuming no tag-backs.)

So, discounting the book that is actually nearest to me (Callahan’s Russian-English Dictionary of Science and Technology), I’ll pick the next closest one.

The problem is defined, its feasibility tested, and the entire background for the project is researched very carefully. This is the research design, which can take many forms. But all research designs have certain common elements:

  • A context. The design should reflect a larger set of goals and fit into a larger body of archaeological knowledge

You’ll just have to buy the book to find out what the other common elements are 😉

Taken from Archaeology: A Brief Introduction (Ninth Edition) by Brian M. Fagan.

What can I say? I’m working on a Russian>English translation of a book on archaeology and am literally surrounded by dictionaries and textbooks. The first draft is done and I’m now well into the secondary read through. I have until the beginning of the year to complete it, so I’ll no doubt be hard at it all through the holidays.

QotD: My Holiday Wish List

What’s on your holiday wish list?

Does holiday mean Christmas? I’m finding more and more differences between UK and US English as I spend more time on Vox.

What I’d really love is a 1080p HDTV, but it’s not going to happen as we really don’t think that it’s worth buying any more expensive hardware until we know where we are going to be in a couple of years’ time.

Besides that, I’m pretty much set really. Just some happy memories of a Christmas spent with my young family – my almost-3-year-old is really looking forward to it. She met Santa for the first time yesterday, and a few days ago, said that she “wanted to go to Christmas” – cute.

Oh, and a successful conclusion of my translation would be nice, too. Then maybe I can enjoy the new year a bit more!

If you really did want to push me though, I’d gratefully accept a mandolin built by German luthier Heiner Dreizehnter in Tasmanian blackwood throughout. (to match my Heiner D guitar).

Black Water Side

While my wife and kids are away, I thought I would cheer myself up and take the opportunity to play guitar around the house at night! I don’t often get to do that quite so freely as the kids are asleep. I had fun playing the little Brook Bovey in the bathroom, where the acoustics are great.

Last week, I played out at an open mic and messed up a favourite tune of mine pretty badly, Black Water Side. For some reason this tune continues to elude me when under the spotlight, so I decided to try recording a video. I find that recording something simulates to some extent the pressure of playing out. And since I was playing the Bovey, I thought I’d do it on that. It has an incredible sound for such a small guitar!


Black Water Side