House of Blues!

Guitar Chicago does a twice-a-year-or-so show at the House of Blues in Chicago. Good stuff.

It’s a Bowie song. Moonage Daydream. That is all.

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Old Video; Still Makes Me Laugh

To the best of my knowledge, Endeca does not sell power whisks at this time :).

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For the Edge

Well, thanks to the always informative Carter Alan at WZLX in Boston, I was reminded that the guitarist from U2, The Edge, turned 50 yesterday. Congrats to him! In his honor, and frankly because I am always looking for an excuse to learn some new songs on the guitar, I am working on learning and playing the following:

  1. One (how could it not be first ;-))
  2. I Will Follow
  3. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  4. Desire
  5. Angel of Harlem

They are all purported to be relatively easy (check out the link to Three Chord Guitar for One) to learn and they’re all great tunes, so I figured it was a good place to start. Let me know if you have suggestions for other playable U2 songs that sound good on solo guitar; I would love to know your favorites too.

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Guitar Slide

I recently picked up a glass guitar slide and have been playing around with it. I worked through the intro to STP’s Interstate Love Song with my guitar teacher, which was fun and not too taxing. Now I need to find some good ideas of other “easy” slide-based licks or songs.

Glass Slide

When you're too klutzy to cut the top off a bottle: Dunlop!

It’s fun, but I pretty much have no idea what I’m doing, so any tips or suggestions are also welcome!

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Jack Johnson – Good People (via Guitar Pot)

I just stumbled across this lesson and even before I finished watching it I thought I would reblog it here. I haven’t found a lot of guitar videos that did a good job pairing good quality video shots with good explanations. It’s quite refreshing actually! Credit: Marty Schwartz, martyzsongs … Read More

via Guitar Pot

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HONK! is coming!

For the past few years, we have spent our Columbus Day weekends partying at HONK! with “Activist Street Bands”. Basically, that means that there are some funktastic musicians that put on awesome shows all weekend through Davis Square in Somerville. It’s a lot of music and a whole lot of fun, and most of it free on the sidewalks of the Square!

One of our favorites is a band from Chicago called Black Bear Combo. I found this (reasonable) cell phone video on YouTube from one of their shows at last year’s festival; oddly enough you can see Shiry and me in the background of some of the shots!

It’s a great event for the Somerville/Cambridge community, but you don’t have to live down the street to enjoy it. Although there are now festivals popping up in other cities ranging from Providence to Austin, TX, I would fly in from just about anywhere to come hang out in Davis and join in the fun. To get more insight into what this all means, I would recommend checking out Natasha Burger’s take on last year’s festival, and then maybe browsing YouTube for other Honk videos, though they don’t quite capture the spirit of having 4 or 5 street corner “stages” within a few blocks that are rocking out all weekend.

So, why am I mentioning the festival now if it doesn’t happen until Columbus Day? I ended up on the organizers’ mailing list (no complaints), and they just sent out the first information about this year’s festival. They run a non-profit organization that sets up the events and helps to bring in bands from all over the world. Yes, there are activist street bands beyond Somerville, some even come from further away than Chicago! They set up a HONK! Kickstarter to raise money to help defray travel costs for musicians and I thought it was worth a share.

Even if you aren’t ready to donate to the cause, I highly recommend marking on your calendar that you are booked for Columbus Day weekend, the evening of September 30th through October 3rd. It’s worth the trip, wherever you may be coming from.

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Tsukiji Auction Reopens?

Back in January I took my first trip to Asia where I visited Taiwan and Japan. In Tokyo, we visited the Tsukiji fish market, which is world-famous for both the sheer size of the inner and outer markets and for being the main auction site for the best Tuna in the world. Apparently, for much of the year, a small number of onlookers are permitted into a small room inside the inner market from where they can watch the auction process – fish are unloaded, inspected, and ultimately bid up to thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, for the new year’s season when we were in Japan (as well as some other tourist-induced occasions as mentioned on the Okonomiyaki Blog) the auction is completely closed to outside viewing. It’s not that the rest of the market isn’t interesting — even if you are lazy and sleep late you will find plenty of interesting specimens in the inner market where seafood is traded whole and in pieces.

Tsukiji Market Fish Head

Imagine how they must punish thieves!

The outer market and the whole neighborhood around Tsukiji offer up interesting fare — ranging from fresh sushi to beautiful kitchen and market utensils.

While I had a great experience visiting Tsukiji, we went multiple times on our trip, it was unclear to us whether we could even have gone to the auction had it not been during the super-busy holiday season when they bar viewers to ensure smooth operations. The prospect of getting to the market by 5am was challenging given the train schedules, forget the fact that we would have had to wake up at 3am. Since we don’t speak or read Japanese we were at a bit of a loss for official information, but it seemed that the fate of visitors remained somewhat precarious after the earlier incident mentioned above. Keep in mind, though, that we visited Japan in January of 2011. All of this changed after the Tohoku earthquake in March. At that point the Market barred all visitors.

Now, according to news reports and the Life To Reset blog, the auction is open and accepts 120 viewers per day. Much like us, the author of that blog ran into some challenges making it to the market before 5am, but it seems she enjoyed the inner market as her pictures attest. I wonder, though, whether things are different now after the earthquake and the nuclear reactor disaster. Are there less tourists? Are people more concerned about eating seafood that might have been caught in contaminated waters? I was just in Japan earlier this year so it’s not a pressing question for me as I’m not a potential near-term visitor, but I am sure it is on the minds of many.

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Ode to a Keyboard

At some point in college I started having pain in my hands and wrists that seemed to be a direct result of the time that I spent typing. It didn’t cause major hardship and I was able to complete my work without too much of an issue. However, given that I was looking forward to a lifetime of typing both for personal and professional reasons, I was concerned and knew I needed to diagnose the problem.

For starters, I knew that I had to examine and improve my posture and routine. For me, this meant making sure that I was sitting properly and taking breaks to relax and/or stretch my hands and wrists. While you should talk to an expert before doing anything drastic, I have found great resources on the internet for addressing mild carpal tunnel issues. That said, when I was having regular pain, I had a feeling that stretching exercises were not going to be sufficient for me, as I had already begun incorporating occasional typing breaks and the prayer stretch into my typing routine.

At the time, I was the fastest hunt-and-peck typer that I knew, but I wasn’t sure if that was partly to blame. I was also an average user of the mouse, which seemed to be related to the pain (I will put off how I have tried address that for another post), so occasionally switching my mousing hand was a short-term “fix”. In general, I believed that whether I was moving my hands to reach for the mouse or to reach across the keyboard for a far-off letter I was contributing to my problem.

Kinesis Advantage Contoured Keyboard

The Keyboard Messiah

Enter the Kinesis Advantage Countoured Keyboard. One of my colleagues at Harvard recommended that I try it out. Of course, I had a PS/2 model at the time, but the layout was the same as the one linked here. The first two weeks were awful. Not physically painful, thankfully, but as someone who would occasionally hit the T key with his right hand – ok, fine, always not occasionally – this keyboard was maddening. It enforced good habits in a way that I had never experienced before. To be honest, I had previously tried using Mavis Beacon and other typing programs to learn “touch typing” in the past, but it had always been difficult to motivate myself when I could type so much faster with my hunt-and-peck method than the proper method. The Kinesis cured me of that problem – cheating often came at a huge penalty.

In one fell swoop, my daily routine changed pretty dramatically. I was now typing differently and had less pain. The Kinesis isn’t a panacea, but it certainly makes a huge difference — at least it does for me. In addition to the general contoured shape, and the enforced home row, I think that the fact that the modifier keys (shift, control, alt) are under my thumb seems to be part of the goodness for me. As a programmer and computer “power” user, I find that I end up using these keys pretty liberally, so having them under the thumb with little to no stretching seems perfect. Almost 10 years later, I haven’t found a keyboard that is more comfortable. Wherever I go for work, I make sure that I have a Kinesis on-hand (no pun intended), so I can get down to work doing some serious typing without compromising my hand health. Note, however, that there are a lot of options for ergonomic keyboards out there. Switching to a Kinesis requires a pretty dramatic shift, so if you are looking for more of a compromise, you might check out the recommendations from some recent posts from other sources like the the Adapt-It blog or the aptly named Ergonomic Keyboard blog!

Kinesis is a bit of a “niche” company, but they have been working steadily for years now and have a good selection of products. While I haven’t used any of the others, they seem to get good reviews from users including the No Carpal Tunnel Blog. From my experience, I would confidently recommend them as being well worth the price.

Last word

I am quite happy in general with all the Kinesis products that I have used and I should add that the company is great – I have owned multiple Advantage keyboards and when there have been issues the guys at Kinesis have quickly and efficiently helped me resolve them every time. That said, there is one oddity that I believe warrants a HOWTO here. When you are typing, this keyboard produces sound – not just as a result of the physical typing, but it seems to have a small speaker that produces an additional clicking sound for normal keys and a small beep for “toggling” modes (e.g. caps lock, key program mode, etc). The first thing that I do when I set up a new keyboard is to make some changes to the key layout and disable these sounds. While the documentation of all of this is pretty reasonable, it bears repeating here:

Effect Key Combination
Turn On/Off Key Click Hold Progrm and Hit –
Turn On/Off Toggle Tone Hold Progrm and Hit \
Print current key config (note, prints as if typed) Hold = and Hit s
Switch current key config to Windows Hold = and Hit w
Switch current key config to PC (good for Linux, no Windows key) Hold = and Hit p
Switch current key config to Mac Hold = and Hit m
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Mysterious Eclipse start-up error

I occasionally run into an issue with eclipse that is totally bizarre. Nine times out of ten, it’s completely opaque and even challenging to use the web to track down someone who articulates the problem in the same way. Luckily for me, when my latest issue hit I knew I had seen it before and *had* managed to find someone else with a similar problem.

I hit this issue with Eclipse 3.6.1 (Helios) running on Linux (Red Hat), though I have seen it reported in Galileo, other eclipse spin-offs and other platforms as well. When I fired up eclipse, it prompted me for the workspace as usual, but after I made my selection it gave a totally generic error message:

An error has occured. See the log file...

An extremely helpful error message.

The referenced .log file had a similarly opaque error message that came in the form of a few stack traces. Not being an expert on the eclipse codebase and having no interest in becoming such an expert, I have only included the stack traces below in an effort to help others find this page and find a solution to their problem.

Based on what I found after some searching around, the “right” thing to do to resolve the problem is to remove the .snap file from your workspace’s .metadata directory. So, if your project workspace is stored in /local/workspace , then you would run the following command to safely (i.e. reversibly) try fixing your project. Note that both versions of the command should not be split across multiple lines, even if they appear to be split because of line-wrapping in your browser.

Linux/MacOS X:

mv /local/workspace/.metadata/.plugins/org.eclipse.core.resources/.snap /local/workspace/.metadata/.plugins/org.eclipse.core.resources/.snap.bak


move C:\local\workspace\.metadata\.plugins\org.eclipse.core.resources\.snap C:\local\workspace\.metadata\.plugins\org.eclipse.core.resources\.snap.bak

After taking this step eclipse was able to open my project without issue, hope the same works for you. If it works, then you can go ahead and remove the .snap.bak file at your convenience. If you have other tips or tricks or want to provide some more background on why this problem occurs and why this fixes it, then feel free to leave a comment below.

Here are the stack traces that I found in my .log file as promised for searchability:
Continue reading

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Airline “Feature Request”

One of the things that I like least about traveling is the uncertainty that seems to come standard with any flight. Consider, for example, that your flight may be delayed or cancelled for reasons as varied as weather, crew MIA, mechanical difficulties (a favorite, I assure you). However, from time to time travelers volunteer for more uncertainty – in the hopes that this uncertainty will yield some reward. In particular, if you miraculously make it to the airport before your flight, there is that outside possibility that you can successfully go “standby” on an earlier flight.

As a Platinum-level member (woohoo!) on American Airlines, when I arrive early enough to go standby on an earlier flight I don’t have to pay for this luxury. At least, I don’t have to pay with cash. I do, however, have to pay in the universal currency of anxiety. I take myself from the “hey I’m early! no worries about making my flight” mode to the “oh no! there are other people the list, will I make it on”. This new flight, which isn’t really mine, suddenly feels like it’s mine! One of the reasons for this nervousness and the anxious rush to the gate is that the standby process is relatively opaque.

It’s opaque in that you can’t see the actual list and your position on it until the gate agents arrive. It’s opaque because there are somewhat complex rules that control the order of names. According to the airline, the order is determined based on customer disruption status (were you bumped from another flight?), your AAdvantage status (are you Gold? or Platinum? Or EXECUTIVE Platinum?), and the time that you put your name on the list.

While I don’t think it would solve all my anxieties – I mean, at the end of the day, I still might not get on the plane – making the standby list more transparent would at least allow me to be obsessive over something tangible. If I could find out by phone or by internet the length of the list, my position on it, etc, I would at least feel like I had some control over my situation. If I saw that there were 35 people on the list, but only 3 of them were ahead of me – it might be worth expending some hope on the situation. However, if there were 35 people on the list and all of them would need to be accommodated before me, then I probably wouldn’t even bother going to find the gate for the earlier flight. Instead, I would just go to my gate or to get some food and relax for an extra 30 minutes or hour!

I am sure there would be all kinds of issues implementing this request that might make it impossible, but put me down as a potential user if the AA development team ever considers it!

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