Games, drumming, juggling, home improvements, cooking, comics, dogs, macs, music, etc.

Squall - probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse skval: useless chatter (Merriam-Webster)
It's my goal to have the LONGEST blog pages around. Kind of.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mt Evans - Colorado

I was in Colorado this weekend, and I joined my friend Tim on his annual birthday excursion to Mt. Evans. Read what Wikipedia has to say about it.. Oh, and I got to drive the Camero, too.

Views from the top!

Me taking pictures with my Q phone. All of these pics are from Tim's camera. The Q ones weren't as nice. Thanks Tim!

A storm moving in on us, better get out soon.. Rocky mountain weather is unpredictable.


Tim and I.

Tim's feet, looking down a nasty potential fall..

That's it. Go do something productive now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn - ACT I

Play begins on the 2nd Eshiday in Morothus, late winter.

Kalinar is the current Rankan military governor of Sanctuary, he’s retiring soon, and the Palace is awaiting news of the replacement.
It's raining in Sanctuary, and raining hard. The group is moving in the dark of night, making their way through the Maze to the Vulgar Unicorn. Their safe passage ad route was paid for, paid to a local gang of thugs: The Silent Brotherhood. Modig has a pre-arranged meeting for some information he has, and the rest of the gang is along for support, protection and a good time. Well, as good of a time as you can have in the Maze after dark.

It’s another typical night at the Vulgar Unicorn, although “typical” covers a wide range of conditions here in the Maze. Unusually cold rain drizzles down outside, the remnants of a storm that blew in off the sea this morning. The Vulgar Unicorn is no better constructed than any other in the Maze, and the creaks and groans it gives up every time the wind blows aren’t encouraging. A few drips prove the roof is not in prime shape. A few flickering lamps shed poor light in the lower level of the tavern, and a single lamp illuminates the only table occupied on the balcony level above. There’s no fire in the fireplace, but it’s not really cold enough for anyone to complain. The tavern isn’t pleasant, but it’s more gloomy than uncomfortable.
It’s not a bad storm, but it’s gone on all day and by now most Sanctans have decided it’s not worth struggling against. Likely, the only patrons tonight are those with business that can’t wait or those with homes even less comfortable on a rainy night than the tavern. As a result, it’s a slow night, with just eight customers in the common room, other than the group. One Thumb sits behind the tavern’s chipped wooden counter tiredly, serving what few drinks are ordered, and chatting quietly with one customer. The lone barmaid here tonight, a fair young woman One Thumb calls Minx, simply waits near the kitchen door for someone to signal a desire for a drink or food. No minstrel or entertainer is trying his luck here tonight, so the only sounds are the murmurs of low conversations, the splashing of feet going through puddles outside and the wind whistling through shutters that are only a little more secure shut than they would be if open.

Three of the tavern’s patrons sit together near the front door, burly men sullenly nursing cheap drinks and quietly talking among themselves. They wear the simple leathers and long knives of hired thugs, and every few minutes one of them shoots an irritated glance at the door. If they have business here tonight, it’s with someone who hasn’t arrived yet. Not far from the table of ruffians is the fourth patron, an older man in worn clothes and heavy cloak that are clearly Ilsig in design, but have seen better days. The man keeps his head down and hasn’t spoken since the group has entered. In fact, he’s barely moved at all, with only the occasional sigh or adjustment of his cloak as proof he’s alive at all.

Furthest from any other occupied table sits a woman in a heavy, hooded robe, the hood pulled up to conceal her face. The shape hinted at under the cloth and the delicate features that can be glimpsed from time to time suggest she’s an attractive woman, but she’s making no effort to take advantage of that. She’s obviously alert, glancing at any sudden noise or voice, but seems more cautious than nervous. She’s actually eating a meal, the only one of the eight patrons to do so, and has ordered the best fare the Vulgar Unicorn has to offer (which isn’t saying all that much). Nearest to her, a lone patron sits casually, seeming to enjoy the dreary night. He is a trim and fit younger man, obviously full of the confidence often found in braggarts and bullies. Like the woman, he seems alert, especially when the wind comes howling through the cracks in the walls and sets the tavern’s lanterns flickering.

The quiet feels a bit like an audience waiting for a play to begin, as if the main act of the tavern’s night is about to begin. There’s a little tension in the air, but that’s not unusual in the Maze. It’s another typical night in the Vulgar Unicorn, and that means anything can happen.
Modig is not sure whom he's meeting; they will make themselves known. In the meantime, the group gathers at a corner table and takes in what views the infamous Vulgar Unicorn has to offer. Eventually, the man sitting at the bar approaches Modig. The information exchange happens, and business is quickly concluded. The group decides to partake of another round rather than facing the weather so soon. They are taking their first sips of the fresh round when an argument breaks out between two of the thugs at the front table. One wants to go now, while the other two think they should stay another hour or so. The argument quickly gets loud and rude, with all three standing and putting hands on their knives. Before the three thugs can come to blows, the front door of the Vulgar Unicorn blows open as a particularly strong wind gusts in. This snuffs the few lamps in the tavern, throwing it into total darkness. The Group readies themselves for action, even if it is pitch black. There’s a lot of commotion, but the Group stays alert and in their place in the corner. Modig feels something at his feet.

Less than a minute after the lights went out, the confusion hasn’t settled yet. The front door swings open again and there are several men with torches in the doorway. They wear the patches of the town Guard, and already have their weapons drawn. The thin, waxed paper windows on the bottom floor begin to glow with flickering light from the outside, suggesting the guard have the other exits covered as well.

The largest of the men in the doorway calls out with a booming voice “Everyone stop where they are! I’m Captain Macklin. This is a Guard matter now!”

The rest of the occupants of the bar seem to be wary, but comply with the lowering of weapons and sitting down. The guards take stock of the situation. The Ilsig-clothed man is dead, slumping over his table. There is a bloody dagger at Modig’s feet; it is decorated with a boar’s head on the pommel. The guards systematically arrest everyone in the bar; everyone is to be questioned. One of the Group members notices the man in the balcony is gone.

Everyone is brought to the Truthsayer judge individually. After a long night of questioning, the Group is not cleared of the murder, but not charged with it either. They are offered a deal to help investigate the happening and are sanctioned within the city limits, unless there is a proven reason otherwise.

3rd of Morothus – Falanday
It is early morning, but past dawn. Everybody is extremely tired and is spent mostly trying to recap what happened, and sleep. Rumors on the streets are already spreading about what has happened, and the Group is in a good position to sell and gather information. In particular, Jubal is very interested in the murder that took place. The Group learns of Jubal’s man at the Happy Beaver and makes way to do some information deals. The Happy Beaver is a typical Westside tavern, being mostly rundown, not so clean, and somewhat less than desirable. The place is mostly empty since it is so early in the day, but there’s still Gastov, a few of his thugs, and the bartender. Gastov invites the Group to discuss any information, but will only talk upstairs in a private area, and only 3 members can go. Gagino, Jack and Kihra head up to the room with Gastov to work out a deal. The group’s information proves to be most valuable, and Kihra uses her charms (and a little magic) to sweeten the compensation in the Group’s favor; they end up with a small sum of silvers for their trouble.

The Group reconvenes at their favorite place, Marta’s; the nicest place around. The nicest place in the Westside, that is. Marta’s is one of the few businesses on the Westside not paying protection money, due to Guards and patrons alike keeping it scum-free. Everyone likes Marta’s the way it is, and keeps it that way. This place is very unusual for the city of Sanctuary. With the new information, the Group has a few leads, and is determined to locate the man and the woman from the Unicorn last night, particularly the one that disappeared. They got a name from Gastov; the man’s name is Pace. They decide to call it a day, since they are all getting tired.

4th of Morothus – Anensday.
At the morning meal, a known messenger named Lilly drops off a note in the Group’s midst. The note is anonymous and is a short warning about the rat-catcher, Hariv. After getting information about where to find Pace, they get to his hovel and find that it has already been searched thoroughly. It looks as if Gastov’s men have already been here. Asking around, they find out that Pace had a job, and that was to watch a spy in the city by the name of Rossa. They find out where she lives and pay a visit to her apartment. They find themselves in the Maze again, but this time during the day; still not very safe as far as the Group is concerned. They have a run-in with a local gang, the Silent Brothers. After a quick scuffle, most of the Brothers are sent running, but not after a few drop a dagger or two. One Brother is captured. Picking up a dagger, the Group realizes that these daggers are all part of a matching set, and one of them was used in the murder the other night at the Unicorn! These unique ‘Boars Head’ daggers indeed need further investigation. Asking this ‘Brother’ for information is what the Group does, and not so nicely. After a few threats to his very personal attributes, the Brother informs the Group that the daggers were received in trade from an Irrune named Karizal. However, this new information will have to wait as they are still hot on the trail of Pace and Rossa.

After finding Rossa’s quarters in the Maze, the Group searches the place and learns more about her. They start asking around about her, and, with a few more leads, the Group arrives at an abandoned warehouse where they believe Rossa is being held captive by Pace.

A peek into the warehouse confirms Pace has Rossa inside, and that Rossa is tied up. With some discussion and a short planning of actions, and the Group enters the warehouse from the door and a window. Suddenly, some nasty looking creatures descend upon the warehouse, seeming to avoid the Group, to attack Rossa and Pace. Rossa is helpless, but Pace draws a weapon and protects himself. The Group makes quick work of the Fennaith, and thus removes the threat. Pace tries to make a run for it, but is stopped by Jack. Rossa is untied and the questioning begins. Pace is not very willing, but Rossa is a font of information.

Pace eventually gives the Group information about who hired him; it was Enrilissi. He was originally contacted through a Ranken nobleman named Arion Swan.

Rossa, on the other hand, spills information. She admits to being an agent for the Kingdom of Ilsig. Rossa had determined that Erilissi was a Rankan agent, so Rossa began following him. She didn’t know what he was up to, but saw him talking to Arion Swan on several occasions, and receiving what looked like money purses from Swan. She also saw Erilissi meet with a short, overweight man in a cloak on more than one occasion, often passing him the same purses gained from Swan. The small fat man, a left handed hunch back, and obviously didn’t want to be spotted with Erilissi. Rossa had decided Erilissi was up to no good, and had decided to kill him, but she never got the chance. She heard Pace talk about being contacted through Swan, which leads her to believe Swan and Erilissi were more than casual acquaintances. Erilissi was the fellow murdered at the Unicorn; it seems there is plenty of reason for him to have been killed.
The Group hits the information trail again to look for information on Karizal – the Irrune who traded the Brotherhood for the Boars Head daggers. They find out that he’s in town occasionally, and is an assassin for hire. He lives outside of the city, in the Swamp of Night Secrets.

5th of Morothus - Shiprisday
On the trail for one more loose end of information, the Group needs to find out about the fat man Rossa talked of. Information on the street leads them to a man named Pathias Meed, a local spice merchant with a shop on the Westside.

While heading to Paithas Meed’s shop, the Group runs across a Wizard casting spells. The Wizard bungles the spell he’s working on. As a result, two small demons are summoned from another plane to the streets of Sanctuary. People run away, chaos ensues! The Group steps in to battle the demons. It’s an odd situation but they finally dispatch the demons.

The Group reaches Pathias’ shop, and enters through the front with Jack waiting at the back door. The Group finds a shop with no one in it and it’s been thoroughly looted, vandalized, and generally trashed. Probably done by the poor folks that live in the area. Asking around the area, most of the scrounging happened a day or so ago, when the shop was found completely unmanned. Obviously, Paithas had left town, and he left in a very big rush; since most of his shop goods were there to ravage.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Drum kit '08 - With pictures!

Here’s my redesign, after a short intro of the old builds. I did it over the last few weeks, but most of the re-build was done in one weekend. My plan was to remove the top row of pads, and generally sizing down the kit. It still has the ‘industrial’ look and feel I find that I want for this kit. I still love the SuperStrut cage / rack. It’s a long post (but what’s new? My posts tend to ramble.) and this one has lots of pictures.

This was the “Original”. I built this for the stage and gigging with the band. It was BIG. I have long arms, so it wasn’t a big deal. Anyway, I realized I didn’t have any pictures, and I took these as I was disassembling this kit to make a smaller build.

Here’s another picture of it actually in use, it was an outside show, but you can see that I used acoustic cymbals. And look, my EMAX! (My original keyboard sound source)

Here’s the first rebuild - this was in like ‘96. I had three rows of pads, and all acoustic cymbals. E-Cymbal technology was pretty poor in the ‘90’s.

So now that you have a little history, here’s the rebuild, 12 years later. In loving, excruciating detail.

Parts after the disassembly. Main sides of the rack. I decided to reverse the rack sides, and have the channel on the interior rather than the exterior. And, no, I am not ruining nice Marble tile with the metal of the strut. They're cheap vinyl press-on tiles.

Drums, on the cross bars, no need to pull the pads off of the bar. And the bass pads.

Cable Spaghetti! The IO, the mounting bracket and my iPod, with a lot of cables. Lots of cables.

Extra pads, I am going from 14 to 10, so now I have 4 extras. and the new PinTech dual zone ride cymbal (we're seeing the bottom).

The two new Pintech choke-able crashes.

The infamous KORG 01/W keyboard I use via MIDI as a sound source. I got it from a friend for free. Can you see why? I wrote the MIDI note numbers on the keys for easy reference.

The start of the actual build, I adjusted the middle vertical bar slightly more to the rear.

Close up of the strut channel connections...

Adding the ‘snare’ cross bar of pads. Usually, I map the two middle drums to snare-ish sounds, the left (on the right in the photo) as an effect sound, and the right (left in the photo) one is usually a floor tom.

Here's a close up of the pad bar to the side rack connection. Using the channel gives lots versatility for height and the connection allows for 360 degrees of spin for angle adjustment.

Close up of the pad mounting bracket ‘saddle’. it allows for a lot of adjustability for the pad’s angle to the strut. The bottom of the strut channel is lined with 1/2" thick rubber. The pad's mounting bolt screws down, and the bottom of the strut is used to jam it in place. I put the rubber in there to minimize the harshness of the metal-on-metal rubbing.

The opposite of the saddle, this is the piece that goes into the saddle. I call this a knuckle. It's threaded so I can 'screw' the pad in, and the knuckle fits against the saddle while the bolt jaams against the opposite side of the strut (where the rubber is).

Close up of the pad in the strut using the saddle and bracket. Here you can see the angle that can be adjusted in. if you could see through the strut, the knuckle would be all the way at the top, against the saddle, and the bolt is screwed to touch the strut. This picture is slightly confusing, because the bottom of the pad is so reflective, we are getting a mirror image of the bolt coming out of the pad.

Adding the second tier of pads - the tom tom pads. Amber, the cat, got in on the action. Stinkbutt! (a prize goes to someone who gets the reference).

Adding the bottom bar for the bass pads. and the two sides of the keyboard rack mount pieces.

Close up of the rack that the keyboard will go on.

Keyboard sitting on the rack.

The rack tended to rock a bit (no pun intended, it literally rocked back and forth), so I added a big cross brace to limit rocking. Boy did that work! This thing is rock solid. The top bar was used for another set of 4 pads, but I decided that I wanted to be able to have my laptop in a good viewable position, so I changed the top rack from drums to components.

Eight pads, and the new e-cymbals, I’m still adjusting some of the distances and angles, but the pads are in good position. It took a bit to get the height of the snare pad rack, but it’s good now.

Lower angle showing the I/O mounted on a piece of copper pipe I had kicking around. I mean, who doesn’t have extra lengths of pipe laying around?

The right hand side of the kit, with the crash and the dual-zone ride.

Full kit!! I had the riser from the original build, and this one is smaller, so I trimmed it a foot from left to right, but kept the depth for the drum throne. This is also showing the final placements for the hi-hat stand and the bass pedals. Bass pads in place, throne, and all the pedals (including hi-hat stand) are screwed down to the platform. My laptop is also shown, top middle of the top bar. All that’s missing is me. The hi-hat placement; it kind of covers up the far left pad I use for effect sounds; I may adjust it later on.

From the right side.

Well, that's it!! Thanks for reading all the way to the end.