Sunday, January 27, 2008

Skiing and Dancing, oh yeah!

Had a fabulous day with Billy, Amy, and Peter skiing "Lips" in Turnagain. It was 3 below at the highway when we were gearing up! I had never skied this hill, so was excited to see it first hand. Bottom line is that we skied 3 runs on the south face in 8-18" of whispy blower powder on top of a firm wind crust - it was so cold the snow just billowed around us as we skied, and seeing Billy come over the rise in his orange puff jacket with all that smoke billowing around him was the (mental) scene of the winter! Even Roxie, Peter and Amy's dog who is usually subdued and a bit serious, was in full-out fun mode. It warmed up nicely up high in the sun, but it was bloody cold at the bottom of the runs in the shade. I got going pretty bloody fast the second run I was so stoked, but the new Verdicts I'm skiing got me through in fine form. The last run down the west face featured deeper powder that we couldn't really feel the bottom of - woohoo....and it was 10 below when we got to the truck - Brrrrrrr!

When I got home, after all that work, I barely had enough time to get cleaned up to go have dinner and partake in the cajun dance with the Savoy Family Band from Louisiana. It was a super fun night with some REALLY nice music and a handful of hot dances and a coupla new dancing partners who have appeared on the scene that were fun. When it ended at midnight my tail was dragging big time and I slept like a bear last night.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cajun + new sound adventures...

The craziness continues, not getting much sleep these days! I've been researching pro sound systems to help some friends set up their dance studios, and just yesterday the owner of the local latin dance club asked me to help him improve the sound at Club Soraya - oh boy! They've got a mish-mash of about a wild assortment of varous vintages and sizes of amplifiers, speakers, sound processing devices, a tangle of cabling, etc. Thankfully most of the equipment is high quality so I look forward to making a positive improvement for them. Been studying up on electronic crossovers, bi-amping, frequency coupling, amp loading.....

On top of this, after building and listening to lots of speakers lately, I've become unsatisfied with my normal speaker system in the house, and have decided to purchase a set of full-on professional studio monitors, as accurate as I can afford. Another bloody research project - just what I need!! But I've been wanting to improve the quality of my tango restoration work, and this is the first step in that direction.

We've got a cajun band in town from Louisiana who turned out to have a really hot, sultry bluesy/jazzy/swingy piano sound - can't wait for the blowout dance this Saturday!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gypsy Power

Wow, a co-worker loaned me the movie "Latcho Drom" by Tony Gatlif, and I got sucked into watching it right off. First movie I've watched in several months, so maybe I'm a big target, but this one moved me deeply. It chronicles the lives of the gypsies with scenes that follow the seasons and also very artistically blends progressively more sophisticated/urban scenes from India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain. Maybe it's that 1/4 Hungarian in me that stirs when I listen to gypsy music, but it digs deep into me somehow. It's so inspiring how these outcast peoples can create such an incredible beauty and display of passion while living a wandering life without a home. There was a scene with a Spanish woman all alone on top of a hill in a park with her son(?) helping to keep a fire going, and she sings the most desparate song with incredible conviction and a look on her face that left no doubt she felt every word. I am often inspired to live my life with this level of conviction, whatever I might be pursuing, and to give everything I have to excell at an activity, especially if it is something I can teach or give to others. This is all the more interesting because of my own strong love of dance, during which I have had "duende" moments where my entire universe got wrapped up in the dance and everything else faded away except the intense focus into the music, as if through the movement and connection to the music I could connect somehow with the ancient rhythms of the universe. Of course it's important to dance for the joy and fun of it, but it's interesting that my most treasured and vivid dance experiences were with a partner who somehow seemed to understand what I'm reaching for, and was willing to connect inwardly on their own introspective journey.

Whew! Heavy, gritty stuff....I better quit before I get too carried away!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sushi Party!

My buddy Pat was in town, so it was party time. Hiroko and Rie, Sushi chefs/hostesses extraordinaire, agreed to help make sushi. Hiroko led me through New Sagaya to buy big-eye tuna, octopus, nori, wasabi, miso, and other goodies. I had red salmon fillets from my freezer.

Rie cutting tuna, Hiroko cutting salmon. Rie had already made short work of the octopus:

Hiroko fans the rice as Pat looks on and Rie inspects the start of the miso soup. Hiroko rinsed the rice for about 5 minutes to make it really clear for sushi and added rice vinegar. I was starting to feel like a tourist in my own house!

Rie cutting rolls...

Hiroko showing the proper way to mix the miso into the stock...

Eric was stoked...with a wild-eyed look, he proclaimed, "This is Intense!" and I thought he was going to do a swan dive onto the table! Amy, Peter, and Billy were a bit more subdued, but no less enthusiastic. Eric contributed a VERY fine loaf of homemade bread that didn't last very long.

The kitchen clique:

Doug brought sake, there was an ample assortment of wines and beer, Laurie made a tasty spinach salad, Billy brought some fruit that hit the spot, and I even steamed up some red king crab. Amy brought a beautiful blueberry pie that topped the feast off perfectly. Another world-class Alaskan potluck! Huge thanks to Rie and Hiroko for contributing their time and considerable expertise!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

High-speed week!

Whew - nutty, high-paced week. Finished the speakers for Ned, which turned into a suitable adventure at the end.....he sanded and finished the boxes, then we put all the drivers back in sound out of the tweeters! Major bummer. So back downstairs to the shop, where we tore the tweeters out of the cabinets and I found, after micro-inspection, that the voice-coil wire was severed between the voice coil and the speaker wire solder cup. We're talking VERY thin-gage wire here. I figured we would need to order new tweeters, but we gamely tore the tweeters apart and, using a wee single strand of speaker cable wire, soldered the wire to the voice coil wire, and soldered the other end to the speaker cable cup. It worked!! Quite proud of ourselves, we tested them again and are still impressed with the incredible range of these speakers.

Teaching the tango class that night (Friday), I was still pretty wound up from the week and needed to consciously relax myself. I'm in the midst of an undefined breakthrough in both my teaching and dancing of tango...haven't nailed it down yet but the result is that I'm generally in a very calm, confident, and patient space which is a revelation for me....I'm not known for such traits, let's say....
Then my buddy Pat Dulin, who I met in Ellensburg in college something like 18 years ago, is up for interviews at UAA. He was a hot skier in his day, so he was psyched to do a day of backcountry skiing here. I set him up with ski gear, he got to meet a whole cast of some of the more colorful ski characters I know, and we went off with Todd, Billy, and Yvonne to Shark's Fin and Wolverine. He showed some of the form I was expecting and it was great to be out with him - we've stayed loosely connected and had some great experiences together climbing and what not. Billy fell into a hole on the way in, and we weren't particularly helpful. Pat is looking on:

Monday, January 14, 2008

First Blog Post!

Been wanting to do this for awhile now. I'll start with a recent trip home in December 2007, the exact place/house, etc. that I was raised in. We used to do this as a family by hand, and if mom wasn't helping she would be inside baking something yummy, but ~ 10 years ago dad bought this tractor from a neighbor up the canyon, and it's still going strong. Nothing runs like a Deere.....

Then there was the "typically Alaskan" atypical backcountry ski day last Saturday. Met Pete at Carrs Huffman per the usual routine, and to my surprise none of the other regulars from our normal group showed up, but Jeff Conaway, Cody, and their friend Andy were there, and Cody tipped us off that they had a skin trail all the way in to the top of Pyramid Peak, AND out from the bottom of Seattle Creek after skiing its west side, and we were welcome to join them. Obviously, Pete and I were in. The day was epic by all accounts, with a huge first climb, temperatures about 5F, wind so strong it was blowing CHUNKS of snow over the ridge, and a huge cornice-evading entry onto the west face, which featured 3200' of 35-40 degrees of THE dryest, deep, whisper-quiet powder you'll ever find. I'll be talking about this day when I'm an old man for sure.

Then, for a true fox-tail diversion, I helped Ned build a set of speakers. He ordered the drivers and crossover from (Cygnet MKII) and we built the boxes from maple plywood and MDF I had left over from other projects. The details on how to build the box were sketchy at best, but starting at 9:15am we got the boxes designed, cut, glued, and fully assembled by 9:45pm, and had them upstairs for sound check at 10pm. It challenged my woodworking skills so I got to learn some new tricks on the way. They sound GREAT! I'm totally impressed - you can hear the tonality of an upright bass and saxes/horns, etc. are crystal clear. More pix of the finished boxes when we get to it.

Nice tight glue-joints:
Madman's lair! I built the other speakers with primitive tools ~ 12 years ago and they're still going strong...