Keydet Piper I'm thinking bagpipes

Monthly Archives: January 2008

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Man this guy is good!


I met this guy last year at piping school, and he’s certainly one of the best pipers in the world. This video is his solo performance from Winter Storm 2008 about two weeks ago. He’s one of those who makes playing look so easy; it looks like he’s not putting in any effort whatsoever. (Anyone who plays the pipes will tell you it takes a lot of effort). He’s of course great at playing the standards, but is also really good at adapting them to his extremely adept fingers. The first two parts of the first tune (The Conundrum) are very solid traditional playing, and then he adds his own touch. Same for the second tune (The Train Journey North). The last bit is just flashy. He probably has the fastest fingers out there today, and it’s so relaxed! A lot of people who play fast sound really rushed or forced, but Start certainly isn’t one of them. The fact that he has the same name as a mouse is just a coincidence.

Competition Thoughts

So my first solo competition of the year is coming up… see the counter for exact time remaining. I’m playing at the New Hampshire Indoor Contest in Concord, NH on April 5; they have four events in grade 2: piobaireachd, 2/4 march, strathspey/reel, and 6/8 march. For both the piobaireachd and 2/4 march I have to submit 2 tunes, and the judge will pick on the spot which one I will play. That means I need to have 7 tunes that are competition ready on the day of. It’s a lot of work being in the higher grades!

I haven’t been able to put in much time on the pipes lately, and I don’t foresee that changing drastically over the next few weeks. A few of my tunes still need some work on the practice chanter, which is about all I’ve been able to give them recently. I was doing pretty well and playing the pipes for half an hour at least each day, but that has fallen by the wayside lately. I need to get back to it; it feel good when I’m playing regularly.

More bad jokes… by special request.

I think there are now three people who follow the blog… and one of them requested cripple jokes. You asked for it….

What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs…
… in the swimming pool? Bob
… on the front porch? Matt
… in a pile of leaves? Russell
… in a hole in the ground? Phil (or Doug)
… in a mailbox? Bill
… in a wallet? Buck (or Bill)
… hanging on the wall? Art
… in a Johnny Cash song? Sue
… covered in shaving cream Nick

What do you call a woman….
… with no arms and no legs in the cannibals’ encampment? Candy
… with no arms and no legs in the courtroom? Sue
… with no arms and one leg shorter than the other? Eileen
… with no arms and one leg shorter than the other who is from Japan? Irene
… with no arms or legs, but with handles? Carrie
… with no arms on roller skates? Dolly

Can you spot the ones I made up myself?

Bad News, Good News

Bad news: I haven’t played my pipes for two days
Good news: I got a good chunk of my schoolwork done for the next few weeks.

So I’m going through bagpipe withdrawal, and the only cure is to play. I should have some time this evening for a good practice session, but that’s 10 hours away. Whether I have the energy for a practice session is another story.

AP physics has been a drain on my time recently, and with the start of a new semester I’ve decided to make some big changes with the way the course is run. Already it looks very different from last semester, and I’ve realized I need to have more thorough plans for that class. I’ve put in a lot of time over the last few days (6 hours total) outside of class, and we’ll see how long I can keep up that intensity. It’s exhausting.

I’m hoping to be able to use my pipes for winding down, but it takes a lot of energy to play them, and after teaching all day it’s energy that I don’t have. Any motivational thoughts would be appreciated!

A flurry of activity

Wow, two posts in an hour? Something must be going on! If you’re astute, you may have noticed a play on words in the title, and indeed, there is a flurry of activity outside the window. We got another few inches of snow last night, and it’s still coming down. No idea how much we’re supposed to get, but probably not more than 6 inches or so. It makes the whole world pretty again.

And my day is filled with activities not related to the snow. Semester grades are due this week, so I need to get them straightened out (not to mention the fact that I have one class worth of midterm exams yet to grade), plus I need to figure out what I’m teaching tomorrow. Oh yeah, I’m on duty tonight too. On top of that I’d like to get some practicing in, but I’m not sure where it will fit in the schedule.

So I guess I’d better get to it….

I’m getting famous!

I received an email this morning indicating that someone had commented on one of my previous posts. This is the first comment I’ve gotten from someone I’m not dating (don’t think you’re not appreciated, Kayla), and as far as I know it’s the first visitor who I didn’t share the address with directly. If I’m wrong about this feel free to comment and let me know that you’re out there. If I know people are reading, I’m likely to post more often.

The commenter was Piping Girl, who has her own bagpipe-related blog. I seem to recall having stumbled across her site not all that long ago (after seeing a post on Dunsire perhaps?), and hers is one of the several blogs that I follow once in a while. She has a nice post about the progression of courses at a Burns Dinner.

So this is proof that there are people out there who have found my site. Check out my actual website too; there’s lots of good information about me there. And keep checking back here for my sporadic and random posts. This is, after all, Keydetpiper’s Random Thoughts on the World.

The Appeal of Really Bad Jokes

I’m not sure what brought this to mind this afternoon, but I realized I haven’t heard and really good bad jokes lately. My favorite jokes to hear (and tell) are not the ones that make you laugh, but the ones that make you groan. It’s probably from my dad, whether genetic or the environment I was raised in, but I love it. Here are a few of my favorites that come to mind. Some are real groaners, some are just terrible, but I like them all.

So these two silk worms were in a race. They ended up in a tie.

Did you hear about the cannibal who are the charismatic? He threw up his hands.

I went to the Levi’s factory and got a denimstration on how they make jeans.

Why don’t cannibals eat clowns? They taste funny.

What did the cannibal do after he dumped his girlfriend? Wiped his ass.

These two guys are lost in the desert and are starving (somehow they have enough water). They come to the top of a dune and see an oasis in the valley below, green and lush. The most attractive feature is a tree that is clearly laden with bacon, pork chops, sausage, and lots of the “other white meat.” Surely it must be a mirage, so one of guys decides to wait while the other checks it out. They each take a walkie talkie so they can communicate while they’re apart. The one guy cautiously approaches the bacon tree, and when he’s about 30 feet away these machine guns pop out of the bushes and cut him down. With his dying breath, he picks up the radio and calls his partner: “It’s not a bacon tree, it’s a ham bush!”

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

Why did the cat fall off the slippery roof? It didn’t have enough mu. (physics joke)
(end of list of jokes)

What’s wrong with me that it’s silly little things like this that make me laugh? It’s kind of sad, really, but I don’t care.

Exam time

As I write this, a few students in one of my Honors Physics classes are finishing their midterm exam. They don’t like me for it, but I don’t really care. This is a nice week for teachers; as one of my colleagues said, “When you’re teaching, you’re always on. You can’t do anything without someone noticing. During exam week, I can pick my nose and get away with it.” There’s no prep for classes, but there is a lot of grading involved, since we need to have all of our grades in by Tuesday. That means we need to have exams graded, entered, and semester grades calculated just 4 days after the last exam. Two of those days are regular days in the classroom, so there’s not much grading time.

I have a reputation for giving hard tests, and I’m afraid that this exam will put that reputation in jeopardy. I had three students finish within an hour (including one who usually takes the longest), and at the end of the two hour exam period there were only three students left working on it. In looking over their papers they did pretty well, so I hope they don’t think I’m going soft.

More Practice Thoughts

I seem to have been on a roll when it comes to practicing, having played the pipes nearly every day in the last week or so. Yesterday was a day off (a day off from blogging too, if you noticed), for several reasons. First, I ended up staying at school later than I usually do, which didn’t leave me enough time to play before dinner. Since I was on duty last night I had to be at dinner promptly at 5:30, otherwise I would likely have skipped it. After dinner was the standard excuse, that I just didn’t feel like it. It’s a terrible thing, and one I’m trying to avoid, but every once in a while you have to take a day off.

I didn’t take two days off though, I just finished playing for about 45 minutes. It wasn’t a terribly structured practice time, more like just playing through some tunes, but the pipes were sounding pretty good. The fingers weren’t working as well as they usually do though, with the top hand struggling to find its place on the chanter and my birl having gone straight to hell. I think the first problem will be fixed by more playing and getting used to playing the instrument more often, and the second by tons of birl exercises. I hate doing exercises, but I understand their importance. Here I go to work on that now… where’s my practice chanter?

More thoughts on the backwards practice

After my most recent session of practicing tunes backwards, I’ve come up with a few more thoughts as to why it’s the way to go. First, it forces you to pay more attention to where you are in the tune, so it results in a more concentrated practice. Second, during a competition I find that I tend to concentrate on my fingers for the first part (so it’s usually pretty good), then I listen more to the instrument and concentrate more on blowing steady and keeping it in tune. The more familiar my fingers are with the later parts, the better off I will be when I subconsciously turn my attention away from them.

I’ve also decided that I need to add an extra step to the list I posted last time, and that is to close the practice with five minutes or so of tunes that are just fun to play. If you’re enjoying yourself while you play it’s not practice; practice is where you play things over and over and concentrate on making yourself better, and it’s supposed to be miserable. It’s a treat to close a practice session with a reminder that this awful instrument is fun to play.

At least this is my approach to practice… up to you as to whether you agree or not.