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Monthly Archives: January 2009

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One of life’s simple pleasures

I’ve written about the simple pleasures in life, the little things that you just really enjoy.  I left one off that list for purposes of decency, but I now feel that it’s time to bring this one to the front, especially once I found this little essay on the subject.

The simple pleasure of which I speak is the joy of peeing outside.  Outdoor urination is one of those things that most men feel brings them to their animalistic roots, while most women find it disgusting.  There are of course exceptions, but it’s one thing that almost any guy just really likes, as long as it’s done with appropriate discreteness as described in the article above.  The great thing about peeing outside is that as long as no one catches you in the act, no one will ever know.  Within seconds all traces of your elimination is absorbed back into nature.  The one exception to this is in the winter (remember Frank Zappa’s advice about yellow snow?), which has given me a few “Oh gross” moments on some recent hikes.  At least go a few steps off the trail, yeah?

Winter Storm Followup

Got back recently from Winter Storm, and OMFSM what a good time it was. Seriously, the amount of fun I had should be illegal.  The weekend went like this:

Thursday evening: Arrive Marriott hotel in Kansas City.  Get settled in the room and return the lobby lounge for a drink.  Dozens of piping people are already there, and we run into a few people that we know.  We meet a few other people we didn’t know before but do now.  Good time.

Friday: have breakfast, begin watching piping competitions.  I spent most of the day watching the Ceol Beag MSR competition, which was the qualifying round for the light music competition.  It ran from 8 am to about 3:30 pm, and I watched (and recorded) a good chunk of that.  The Silver Medal piobaireachd competition was happening concurrently, and I caught a few of those performances as well, though without my camera.  Gold Medal started about 4 pm and ran until 8:30, and I saw the last two players.  The final round of the Ceol Beag started at 9 and ran until about 10:30; I recorded all six performances in that contest.  Awards ceremony for all the day’s competitions started about 11:30 and we finally went to bed about 1.

Saturday: workshops!  Four master classes with some of the judges from Friday’s competitions.  Good instruction from great pipers.  Saturday evening was a spectacular concert with the judges, winners of the contests, and a proposal.  Following the concert was the famous Winter Steam party sponsored by Newcastle, and it was a great time.  I had my camera on hand and collected some pictures of K and I with some very good pipers and drummers. In that collection of photos are the winners of the the Gold Medal (Jori Chisholm), Silver Medal (Alex Gandy) and Ceol Beag (Alex Gandy again), as well as some of the judges and instructors (John Cairns, Fred Morrison, Stuart Liddell, Alasdair Dunn, Chris Armstrong).  I had hoped to get a picture with Angus MacColl, but we couldn’t find him at the party.

Sunday: morning workshop sessions, then hang around waiting for our shuttle to the airport.  The trip home was an adventure in itself, but we made it back quite safely, though with admittedly fewer brain cells than when we left.

Final report: it was a FREAKING good time.  I’ve never heard so much good piping in person as I did on Friday, and Angus MacColl’s little recital at the concert was worth the price of admission.  Would I go back?  Absolutely.

If you thought your town had a funny name…

I stumbled across this article recently, and it made me chuckle.  Read the article before you continue.

Back?  Good.  I guess it’s my immature mind which seems to be perpetually in the gutter, but I just think stuff like that is funny.  As the the article states, I’m sure most of the places mentioned had perfectly benign names at first, but over the years the changing language and idioms cause previously non-dirty things to be dirty (for example the transition experienced by the word “gay”).

Some probably come from other languages where there is no dirty meaning at all, but when translated there is some hidden meaning.  Phuket, Thailand comes to mind, and it’s pronounced Foo-ket for the record.  Perfectly normal in Thai, I imagine, but in the US, well, it will make anyone giggle.

Then again there are those towns in the US with names that aren’t dirty but are a bit odd.  I grew up in Maryland, and I’m aware a town called Accident.  It’s ironically  located near a ski area, and I once spent a thrilling afternoon in the hospital in Accident after breaking my arm at said ski area.

Every state has towns like that.  Some of my favorites from that list are Sandwich, NH; Competition, MO; Magnet, NE; Flushing, NY; North, SC; Canadian, TX; the list goes on and on.

Then there are those that just don’t belong, like Beach, North Dakota.  If you don’t find that amusing, go look at a map.  Aloha, Washington falls into that category, as does California, Maryland (or Pennsylvania).  Seems to me that Santa Claus, Indiana and North Pole, Alaska should be in the same state, or at least near each other.

You can also make jokes about names being appropriate: is Normal, IL really normal?  How aesthetically pleasing is Beauty, KY?  How idyllic is Ideal, GA?  How cheerful is What Cheer, IA?  How welcoming is Friendly, WV?  I don’t know anything about these towns except that they appear on this list, but having grown up nearby I can attest that Boring, MD is appropriately named.

I could go on for a while, but I notice that Hell has frozen over, so I’ll stop now.  Hey, it gets cold in central Michigan!

Reasonable people are very knife

The return flight from my recent trip to Kansas City was a bit of an adventure, made a bit more exciting by the fact that I’m an idiot. Explanation follows.

I have a plastic box that I keep in my pipe case. It has some of the accessories and tools I use most frequently when tinkering with my pipes and is a convenient size for traveling. The most essential tool in the box is a utility knife; a good sharp knife is a must for any pipe maintenance kit. There is a slight problem when traveling by air because a) pipes are ALWAYS carryon luggage and b) TSA people don’t like sharp things.

The flight out to Kansas City was fine; I packed my plastic box in my suitcase and transferred it to my pipe case after arriving in KC. The excitement starts when genius me forgets to put the plastic box in my suitcase for the return trip.

During the inspection of my pipe case, they found the plastic box. This wouldn’t have been a big issue if it had not contained the aforementioned knife, but it did so it was. The TSA guy had a great idea though, and told me this after he checked with his supervisor: go back out of security, open the handle and throw the blade away, then bring the empty handle back through security.

Brilliant! I get to keep the handle (replacement blades are cheap) and leave with greatly improved my opinion of the TSA. A good day for everyone.

Air Travel: Every trip an adventure

The hassels of traveling by air are well known to most people these days. Anything from beaurocratic red tape to bad weather to air traffic to a loose screw can add hours of annoyance to any journey. I’m by no means the most experienced air passenger around, but I’ve been on enough planes to know that air schedules are very much estimated, a change of clothes (or at least toiletries) in the carryon luggage is highly recommended, and even such seemingly static data as dates, times, scheduled stops, and even airlines can vary wildly from departure to arrival.

My most recent trip by air presents a perfect example of two very different flights. K and I flew from Portland to Kansas City for an awesome weekend of bagpipes, and the trip out was nothing short of ideal. The flight from Portland to Detroit was smooth and right on time, we had a short walk through Northwest’s very nice terminal, and a nearly on-time departure for Kansas City. The light snow meant the plane to be deiced before takeoff, which set us back about 20 minutes arriving into Kansas City. Not really a big deal. The baggage claim was almost next to the gate (separated by just a barrier), and our suitcases were literally the first and second ones to hit the belt.

The trip back was a different story. We were again flying Northwest and connecting through Detroit, and upon checking in at the airport were told that due to snow in Detroit, our flight out of KC was delayed beyond our connecting fight. By the time we arrived they had already arranged an alternative itinerary on a different airline: flying United through Dulles. I hadn’t guessed they would put us on a competing airline, but they did. I was quite impressed.

There was another issue though: because we had switched airlines on the same day as the flight, we were “randomly” selected for additional security screening. I can’t figured out how, but apparently that’s a sign of suspicious behavior. It meant that in addition to the regular metal detector and x-ray process, we recieved a pat down from our friendly TSA officer and a thorough search of our bags. Genius me left my utility knife in my pipe case, so I had to go outside security to deal with it, then go through the process again to get back to the gate. At least that section wasn’t terribly busy, so there wasn’t much in the way of lines.

There were three things that made the whole experience bearable. First was that our rescheduled flight was to arrive in Portland at roughly the same time as the original, so we didn’t lose any more time than we already had. Second was that our rescheduled flights were all on time. Third, everyone we dealt with at the Kansas City airport was really great to deal with. The curbside Northwest rep, the Northwest ticket agents, the United ticket agents, and finally the TSA reps at the security checkpoint were very pleasant, professional, knowledgable, and just generally pleasant to work with. The attitude was “Sorry your flight has been delayed, I understand this is inconvenient, but we’re doing our best to get you where you need to go.”

In fact, the whole process was handled so well by the airline reps that I don’t have a thing to complain about. Our luggage even arrived in Portland on the same plane!

Adding a new state!

With my trip to Kansas City this weekend for Winter Storm , I’ll be adding another state on my quest to play in each of the 50 states.  I will attempt to have my first playing in Missouri recorded and will share that if it happens.

The keydetpiper twitters

So I’m messing around with Twitter, which is essentially Facebook limited to status updates.  I’ve only messed around with it briefly, so the jury is still out.

If you’re a Twitterer, you can follow me at  If not, maybe you should be.  I’ll be sending some Twitter updates from Winter Storm, so stay tuned.

The best place to be in January

You have to admit, the months between November through March constitute the slow season for piping (unless you live in the southern hemisphere, or perpetually warm places like Florida or Arizona).  The competitions, highland games, parades, festivals, piping schools, and most other occasions for pipes and drums happen in the warmer months, and who can blame them?  You can’t pipe while wearing gloves, and thermal underwear with a kilt just looks silly.  During the winter months a piper will pass the time by tinkering with pipes, learning new tunes for the next competition season, following gossip on piping and drumming forums , devoting time to other hobbies, and, occasionally, practicing.

It’s true that there’s not much happening in the way of piping during the winter, at least until there’s a Winter Storm.  It has to be one of the largest collections of pipers and drummers anywhere in the world during the off season, and if it’s not the largest it’s certainly one of the most prestigious.  The event covers Martin Luther King weekend from Friday through Sunday.  Friday has gold and silver medal piobaireachd and light music competitions and gold medal drumming competitions.  Saturday consists of workshops taught by some of the big names in piping: Stuart Liddell, Jack Lee (he knows why), Angus MacColl, Fred MorrisonChris Armstrong, Colin MacLellan, and Mike Cusack, among others.  Saturday night is a concert (where those videos were recorded in 2008) followed by the Winter Steam party.  Sunday has some more workshop sessions and some pretty bad hangovers.

I’ve heard great reports about Winter Storm for several years, and I’m very excited to be going for the first time.  I’ll be taking my computer, and will be posting updates and cool information here as I am able.  I’m also taking my cameras and will be taking some random videos whenever I see fit.  They will magically appear on YouTube when I get a chance to process them.

I’m wicked excited.  Should be a great weekend!