Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Happy New Year from Greece where Constantine Cavafy, author of "Ithaka" from which the card text was taken, is held in reverence.  His advice is sound and true and do hope for a long voyage to Ithaka.  Keep your thoughts high and let the excitement stir you.  It's 2013 now.  Let it happen!

The new year has now started here in Greece and I send my best wishes around the world as 2013 begins for all of us!

"X Japan" - Yoshiki (video)

So, you're thinking Japan is all techno, huh.  Oh really!  Take a look at this!

Oh, yes, he plays piano too!


Don't bail out on the piano / violin set as you won't even begin to believe the changes that will come.  This is some of the most slammin' killer music you will hear in a long time!!!!!!!  At 5:22 this gets as bad-ass as you could ever want to get!  Japan rocks hard!

"Just Dance 4" - Lindsey Stirling (video)

Jean-Luc Ponty has been my hero of the Violin Gods for quite a long time but now the violin pantheon has a Queen.  This lady is unbelievable!!!

Take the music where it never went before.  Just blow it right the hell away.  Plus being outrageously hot doesn't hurt one bit!  Lindsey Stirling is so talented and so incredibly adorable!

"Hip Hop Violin" - Lindsey Stirling (video)

If you're still listening to Dark Side of the Moon, it's not a new year, it's a lost decade!  (laughs)

Check out Lindsey Stirling and find out what's in the New World!  Oh yeah, you will fall in love and I mean right now!

Happy New Year from Katakolo

Happy New Year!  It looked really cool this morning with the moon over Zakynthos but the moon was a bit too high in the sky for a good picture.  So that gives me the only New Year resolution I've got:  get a good snap of the moon over Zakynthos.  I'm already doing pretty much the best I can on things so what am I going to change for a New Year resolution that will make anything better!

I'll get off to town in a minute as there is more paper chasing yet to be done.  I just realised that I needed to get a paper to Natalie (Harry's wife) last night but I didn't do it.  Therefore, roll out and take care of that.

This is something I wrote on Facebook yesterday but it applies anywhere, anytime:

You already know if your 2013 will be happy if you are happy now as this living moment determines the future. Live in happiness now and the future will always be as wonderful as it can possibly be. Happiness comes from acceptance as acceptance brings you peace. Everything happens as it was meant to be. Live in peace and love in this moment and the New Year will be filled with yet more of it.

I live largely on bread and hot dogs but I'm happy.  It's easy and I don't have to do dishes after (laughs).  Things will get better.  That won't happen today but that doesn't matter.  It will come.  If I don't do anything stupid today then the coming will be that much easier and that's pretty much how it works.  Do it right today and the future will take care of itself.

Yes, the kill the cigarettes before they kill me campaign is ongoing.  There were some breakouts but nothing significant enough to kill the campaign.  I am not the Marlboro Man and this is quite good as he is quite dead.

Happy New Year from a quite happy and quite beautiful place!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Cliffs" - Album by Pol Arida - Review

"Cliffs" is an album by Pol Arida who can be found performing in Second Life.  He's from Edinburgh, Scotland, and he gave me his latest album for a review.  I haven't said this previously so I'll go ahead with the review anyway but my preference is to do reviews as there is time to do them as I choose between whether I will be playing or listening to someone else play.  I'm happy to do reviews but I would quickly become overwhelmed if I did them by request.  Thanks for rolling with me on this!

What you will hear in the album is that Pol Arida is very much a singer and a lyricist as he doesn't seek to impress you with guitar bravado in blazing guitar solos.  His statement is in his words but they're backed with a great rhythm, pretty arrangements and a solid production.

I'm not going to analyse the content of the lyrics as that's for you to discover and very much I hear the melody of a song long before I hear the actual words.  What comes to me is the feeling within the song and the actual words reinforce that.  What comes to me from Pol's work is the exploration in his music.  The objective isn't to explore the boundaries of music but rather the boundaries of thought.  However, the arrangements are quite lovely and there is great passion in his performance.  You will find that particularly in "Get Out of Here" but it's not the only one.

This is entirely original work as Pol doesn't do cover songs and that alone sets it apart.  There's nothing at all wrong with doing cover songs but my preference is to hear you.  Pol plays multiple instruments to keep his arrangements interesting and to keep drawing you back into the songs.  There is great power in "Land of the Free" and it's quite a strong performance but the emphasis, by far, is the content of his lyrics.  His singing is quite good and he delivers the lyrics clearly and powerfully but overall he wants you to hear what he is saying rather than trying to impress you.  That is impressive, however, as many are lost in New School guitar playing which is unbelievably fast but is also unbelievably lifeless.  Pol's work is very much alive and you'll hear that in the power of "Passion."

You can learn a great deal more and find "Cliffs" at Pol Arida's Web site.

Please note, as always, there is no compensation for my reviews, not now or ever.  They will mean nothing if I'm paid to write.


The poem in the next article is quite an angry bit but it's not indicative of the overall state of the Universe.  So what if I don't go to Ithaka as it'd be a whole lot cooler to get a ferry ride to Italy to see Reis and Aldo and watch them perform live.  That's more euros than I could possibly afford just now but it'll be outrageously cool when it does become possible.

I'm pleased that the coughing has mitigated quite a bit and I'm playing again plus getting the result online so you can hear it.  There will still be about two weeks needed to get online to stream live (i.e. work!) but time solves just about anything so that's fine.  That's in the future and I don't give a rip about the future until it gets here.  It will come.

The "Improv at the Circus" tune is something I'll almost certainly play in live gigs but it's still not pushing the RC-50 as far as it will go, ergo it's not pushing myself as far as I will go (laughs).  I'm pleased with it, tho.  "The Tiger and the Monkey" is very sweet and I like that but a set that's nothing except sweet songs is pretty much of a tofu sandwich so that's not my plan at all.  I have every intention of playing whatever the hell pops into my head and the reason I've been doing these early take releases is I want them to stay as close as possible to whatever the original thought was.  They're not much polished and there are mistakes but that's how live goes.

More to come.  On with the jams!

"And I Got to Ithaka" (poem)

And I got to Ithaka
Dude said, play your blackjack here
I asked, it's just a fucking game?
He said isn't that your fear.
He said it's really quite delightful
If I deal the hottest cards
but that isn't going to happen
as only I know where they are.

I said I didn't come to play
I'm not some goddamn toy
If you want to find a tourist
then you've got the wrong boy.
He said what's your problem
nothing will ever make much sense
it's really just a game
don't you love the suspense.

I was really getting angry
this was supposed to be the joy
but life was flipping playing cards
and this was just another ploy.
He thought it so amusing
that I believed what he said
So I got to Ithaka
but will go somewhere else instead.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Improv at the Circus" - Alan Fraser (audio podcast)

"Improv at the Circus" was recorded tonight in one pass on a Boss RC-50 looper.  No, I'm not trying to record everything in my head in one night as I notice that trying to do that just puts more stuff in my head.  It was a vibe that struck me earlier this evening and I wanted to get it down before sleeping.

The song (instrumental) is available now for free on the Ride the Dragon podcast.

Need to Put Some Whoop-Ass on Marlboro Cigarettes

The game is on.  There's no chance of a fall-down tonight so the first opportunity to humiliate myself is tomorrow morning.  The strategy is to get a roll going this afternoon / evening to go into tomorrow on a full charge.  Given that it's now midnight, it looks like the first part of that strategy has worked!

There's not much to be said about quitting smoking as you either do or you don't.

"The Tiger and the Monkey" Alan Fraser (audio podcast)

OK, so I recorded another love song and I'm glad (laughs).  If you don't know this is for Cat then you haven't been paying attention.  It's not a complex song but complex love songs will just make your toes itch, I think.  There are all kinds of reasons for writing songs but writing them for girls is the best one I know.

The lyrics are in the article with the poem "The Tiger and the Monkey" and, even after three takes, I still made some mistakes but that's ok as I wanted to get it down as close to the first impression as possible.  I believe I'll be keeping the song for a while so there will be time to polish it up.  Finances prevent adding more instruments but I don't hear anything in it that needs keys or bass anyway.

The song is on the Ride the Dragon podcast now and, yep, it's still free.

So, What About the Fraser Jams

This may seem a prelude to introducing my private stock of marmalade but actually it's about copping a plea as to why I haven't been playing much.  There's no complexity as there was so much coughing that it drilled my shoulder and playing when your fingers sting is one thing but this was a bit much.  It's slowly easing off and I want to make a song of "The Tiger and the Monkey" as I haven't done a mushy love song in a while and, hey, I like doing them.

(Ed:  Did you fool around and fall in love?)

Well, except for the fooling around part, yah (laughs).  It's straight out of "Gimme Three Steps" as hey there, mister, I didn't even kiss her!

(Ed:  Would you tell me if you did?)

Good point as, no, I wouldn't (laughs).  However it doesn't reflect badly on her honor if I tell you in truth that I didn't!  I'm her Tiger, her Guardian, bro, and I love that!

(Ed:  She wants you to play for her?)

Yep, thanks for bringing this back to the point as recording songs is one thing but the only thing that matters is live and that's a delicate situation as the euros are exceptionally tight.  Monday will see the request going back to Harry to get the phone line activated as there's no other solution.  It's also the day the transfer of the scooter will be final and some euros will be needed for that but I'm not sure how many.

Friday was a day of the Greek Tax Office and other places to get papers approved, stamped, and all the stuff that governments do to make sure people don't get too bored with life.  I now have a Tax Number which I believe is roughly equivalent to a Social Security number in the U.S. insofar as it permits me to work.  That won't make any difference to playing live as any pay from that would be in U.S. dollars to a U.S. bank but it could make a difference if anything came up over here.

So it's all coming along.  It's slow but the campaign is non-stop.  There will be music!

Joaquin Gustav and Voodoo Shilton at Cat's Art MusikCircus

Joaquin Gustav opened the show last night at Cat's Art MusikCircus and I believe he's the original of the Latin lovers in Second Life as he has been performing in the virtual world for quite a long time and he comes to us from Argentina.  Joaquin plays a wonderfully romantic set with very delicate and fast lead guitar work over either a looper or back tracks, it's tough to tell.  It really doesn't matter how he does it as his presentation is very smooth and what sets it apart is the lead guitar he plays on top.

This was Joaquin's last performance of the year at Cat's Art MusikCircus but he will be back every Friday in the New Year.  He plays a quite romantic set that is perfect for time dancing with your date in a very special moment.  He plays a mix of Latin songs with a mix of his Latin-style adaptations of pop songs and the result is a quite beautiful, highly-romantic performance.

A twist Joaquin offers to the virtual performance is that he also presents a webcam so you can watch him in real life or Second Life, as you choose.  You may be surprised to discover that he really is the young Latin lover he portrays.

There was a second act last night at Cat's Art MusikCircus and this was Voodoo Shilton.  Based on his style, you might well think Voodoo is in Argentina as well but he comes to us, I believe, from New York or New Jersey.  However, don't make any assumptions about what music he would prefer based on where he lives as I'm quite sure you would be mistaken.  Voodoo's mother is from Chile and he said he learned a lot of his passion for Latin music from her and this is why he plays an exclusively Latin set.

As with Joaquin Gustav, Voodoo Shilton has phenomenal guitar skills which he combines with other sound sources, possibly a drum machine or other types of enhancements.  The result is that Voodoo presents a performance that starts out relatively softly but definitely not predictably.  As the performance advances, he plays with stronger and stronger backing so at the end the percussion behind him has a decidedly 'rocky' strength.  Despite the power in the backing, Voodoo's Latin style is consistently beautiful and his skills are self-evident.  If you visualize Latin jazz, this could bring you closest to what he does but you will have to come to see him and hear him at Cat's Art MusikCircus on any Friday in the New Year to truly discover for yourself.

I understand Voodoo Shilton has won a Best Musician award in Second Life but I won't make any assumptions to category.  I just mention it to give an idea of his skill.  I disagree with contests that rank musicians and you won't even hear me compare them.  Every musician stands alone in what he or she presents as there is no-one else on the stage when the performance begins.  Come to one of his shows and find out for yourself.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Results and Annotation for Game Ten of the Great Greek Chess Tournament

Live blogging doesn't make much logical sense unless zombies or androids write blogs but, given the Internet presence of the NRA, that possibility shouldn't be overlooked.  I had considered posting the moves as they were made and that's what they call live blogging but, given that I'm alive and I blog, it seems to me anything I do is live blogging.  Also given that this is a world that, through the insidious expression 'going viral,' has equated popularity with the spread of a hideous disease, no abuse of the language should come as a surprise.  Welcome to the Matrix!

So I didn't do it move by move as Mary brought over some quite delicious curried chicken and this rapidly became the fancy of the many cats and dogs who live here.  We played outside as Zeus has smiled on the last five days and the warm weather and sunshine was quite delicious also.  However, that gave a clear shot at the food by the critters and there was no way of balancing a laptop in that mix.

The annotation will show the moves of the game so I'll leave that for the play by play.  I have pretty good confidence the moves were accurately recorded when written by hand during the course of the game.  I'm somewhat less confident of the accuracy of the transcription to HTML as that part was quite blinding.  Hopefully I got it down correctly.  (Note:  the annotation is written from the perspective of black.)

If you don't play chess then the annotation will be meaningless so I'll cut right to it:  Mary kicked my ass again!  The score is now 5.5:4.5 and the away team has a one game lead again!

Herewith the annotation!   (Updated due to omission of moves at several points in the game.  I'll cop the plea that the transcription process in converting the notes to HTML is blinding and I must find a better way to do it.  Obviously it needs to be done without error but the process creates error and that's the problem to solve.  1/1/13)

White (Mary)Black (Alan)
P B7-B6P D2-D4
B C8-A6B C1-G5
P F7-F6B G5-H4
P G7-G5B H4-G3
P H7-H5P H2-H3
P H5-H4B G3-H2
K B8-C6P E2-E3
Q E8-H5B F1-E2
B A6-E2K G1-E2
Q H5-G4K B1-C3
K C6-B4Q E2-D2
P E7-E6P A2-A3
K B4-D5Castle Kingside
K G8-E7R H1-G1
Castle KingsideP G2-G3
P H4-G3B H2-G3
R H8-H3P F2-F4
P G5-G4K C3-D5
K E7-D5K E2-C3
P F6-F5Q D2-D3
P E6-D5Q D2-D3
R C8-E8P C2-C4
R E8-E4P C4-D5
Q G6-E8R C1-E1
P D7-D6Q D3-C3
R H3-H7R G1-G2
Q E8-H5R G2-C2
P H5-H3B G3-H2
R H7-E7B H2-G1
P C7-C5P D4-C5
P E7-C7R E1-E2
Q H3-F1King B1-A2
Q F1-G1Q C3-F6
B F8-G7Q F6-F5
P B6-C5Q F5-G6
Q G1-D1Q C6-D6
P C5-C4R E2-D2
Q D1-F3R D2-D4
B G7-D4R C2-C4
B D4-C5R C4-C5
R E4-E7R C5-B5
King B8-C8Q D6-A6
R C7-B7R B5-C5
King C8-D8P D5-D6
Q F3-E3P D6-E7
Q E3-E7R C5-D5
R B7-D7R D5-B5
Q E7-F7P B2-B3
R D7-D2K A2-B2
Q F7-H7P F4-F5
Q H7-H1Checkmate

Sonya Jevette, the Velvet Voice in Dallas

Sonya Jevette performs every Thursday night at Cat's Art MusikCircus and the velvety sound of her voice is unmistakable.  One of her signature songs is "The Big Girl Song" and she delivers it with grace, comedy, and style but there's a poignance as to how society can be dismissive of a big girl.  Mostly the audience knows the song as the Wobbly Wobbly Song and the lyrics are mildly self-deprecating but that's the poignance and the sweetness of it.  There's one thing for sure, tho:  treat her right or you won't get none tonight!

When Sonya does "The Big Girl Song," she asks some ladies from the audience to come up to the stage to dance with her while she sings and here's a picture:

From left to right, that's Cat Boucher, Sonya Jevette, and Medora Chevalier, all dancing to the song about the wobbly, wobbly.

Sonya observed the stage looked like a pizza so I told her we were all going to eat it after the show.  Cat said that eating her stage would not be acceptable, however, so that did not happen.

For information on Sonya's shows in or out of Second Life, you can make Sonya Jevette your friend on Facebook.  She's a lovely lady with an incredible velvet voice.  She has great power in her singing but also a lovely sweetness and you know she's cool because she plays a Gibson ES-335, the classic semi-hollow body favored by practically every blues guitarist in the Universe.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cat Boucher, Owner of Cat's Art MusikCircus in Second Life

This will be as much as you will ever know about my hugs!  I've never hugged Cat when she looked like this but I was most appreciative of hugging her when she was a Snow Monkey.  Yes, of course, she's the Monkey in "The Tiger and the Monkey" poem although how we got to be a Tiger and a Monkey is yet another story.

Cat owns Cat's Art MusikCircus in Second Life and she favors a quite progressive style in the performers who play there.  This means she sometimes has to reject performers who do not really fit the style she is trying to present and this troubles her heart which is one of the many adorable things about her.

Most of the acts Cat presents are European and this dictates the timing for the performances at about 2pm or 3pm US Pacific Time which corresponds to midnight or 1am Greek time.  Greece is one hour ahead of Germany and two hours ahead of the UK so this timing presents the acts in the evening for Europe.

While I love to watch Cat dance during the shows and I've told her so, I tremendously enjoy the musicians she finds as they are definitely not mainstream.  She has invited me to play at the MusikCircus and it would make me quite proud to be part of that company.

(Ed:  So, dude, is this about music or love?)

Both, bro (smiles)

It really looks like the cough has broken as it was brutal when I got up from lying down but that has now calmed considerably.  Lotho was quite worried as he knows the risks but I do believe it is now passing.  I would tell you if it were not as it wouldn't help anyone if I glossed over it.  So now it looks like I might actually last long enough to play some gigs for Cat!

(Ed:  Are you going to go gallivanting off to Germany now?)

Ach nein, mein Bruder, das ist nicht in die Karten.  (Oh no, my brother, that is not in the cards.)

If this were twenty years ago and other things were different, I would dash in a second but only the very young don't know that song!

(Ed:  So she's the reason you've been butchering German?)

Ach so, ach so!   (laughs)

Happy Birthday to my Special Friend, Mary

Mary has been a very special friend who has helped me enormously since coming to Greece.  She found me a place to live and introduced me to Harry and his wonderful family.  She introduced me to Georgia who has worked so hard as my dentist.  She has cooked some marvelous meals and she has kicked my ass at chess.  Yes, she is a very special friend and today is her birthday.

Maybe you think, marry this girl and this would be quite a good idea if she were not years younger and did not already have a boyfriend (laughs).  It's a privilege to have her in my life as it's quite a lovely thing to have a relationship in which you're not trying to hit on each other, it's simply for the pleasure of each other's company and, well, to thump each other at chess!

Thank you, Mary, and I hope it's the happiest of birthdays for you!

Medora's Birthday Party in Second Life

If a birthday party in Second Life were simply a matter of getting a cake and eating sweets, there wouldn't be any need to go to Second Life as it's something you could easily do anyway.  So here's what really happens:

How's that for lighting the candles, eh?  From left to right, the ones standing up are Cat Boucher Medora Chevalier, and I.  I'm sorry that I'm not sure who was standing to the other side of me.  I also can't quite make out who is sitting down.  The ones seated were playing on instruments that will only work within Second Life and they're played much like a drum circle except there are other sounds as well, all of which combine for a quite exotic music.

Medora, among many other things, is a stage choreographer and she recently did a show in which she was working with Reis Alter and Aldo Brizzi, two astoundingly-talented Italian musicians who perform in Second Life and also in the real world.  They're so good that I've looked into taking a ferry from Greece to Italy so I could ride my scooter to see their show and visit with them.  That's not financially practical just now but someday I do hope to do that as Italy really is not so far from here.

In the stage show, Medora did the choreography and the costuming for she and Reis.  Reis was singing and dancing with Medora on the stage while Aldo played his synthesizers off-stage and the result was spectacular.  If you're thinking Medora does nothing by halves then you would be quite right as she spent the latter part of her birthday as a dragon, among many other things.

Cat doesn't do anything by halves either and here's a picture of her doing a fire dance:

If you're thinking, my word, she's gorgeous, I would like to cuddle with her then that's quite a natural thing but that isn't exactly what happened.

Now some may find it unusual to hug a Snow Monkey but that's not unusual at all in Second Life!  I'm just glad her preference was not to be a dragon as I don't think the scales would have been at all the same.  Second Life can get as sordid as you like but this wasn't sordid at all, well, unless you consider hugging a Snow Monkey to be sordid!  If this recalls the poem of "The Tiger and the Monkey" then, well, yeah (laughs).

It was quite a lovely and spectacular party and I hope quite a lovely birthday for Medora.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Greek Clothes Drier

OK, so I'm a wiseguy but it's true as clothes driers don't appear to be at all common over here.  That makes sense for a country in which the temperature in the Summer is quite frequently over 100F / 38C. It does make it a novel situation when you try to dry clothes in the Winter, tho.  Maybe they'll be dry tomorrow ... or maybe it will rain (laughs).

The comedy part is trying to operate the washer as all the text is in Greek and I have no idea how to work it.  Driving big iron computer systems that used so much electricity they could fry your whole family was no problem but operating a Greek washing machine seems to be beyond my technical skills!

Ain't Happening With the Local Router

Harry suggested speed testing with a hard wire to the router used for WiFi support here.  If successful then he would move the router from its current location to much closer so I could hard wire into it all the time.  He's trying to save me money because he knows things are tight and also because Greeks don't think much of spending money for no particular purpose.

There's a problem, tho.  The router doesn't support hard wires as there are no ports for them.  The only way to connect to it is via WiFi and that's cool as that is its purpose.  One possible alternative economy is for me to replace it with an alternative router that provides hard wire ports as over even the relatively short run that's less cost than a monthly payment for my own line.  However, that's assuming before buying that it has sufficient speed and that would be quite big assumption given the speed of WiFi.

So, that's the latest on getting online for audio streaming.  It looks like it's the same answer as starting out that I need to get my own line.  It's slow getting this but it will work out fairly soon.  I'm not worried about it.  The projection is still about two weeks from when the request is made to when the line is live.  I won't schedule any gigs until the line is confirmed live but I will start scheduling immediately thereafter.

Happy Birthday to My Ol' Mother, Anne Fraser

If you're one of the regulars then you saw my ol' Dad's birthday is the day before Christmas and, what do you know, my ol' Mother's birthday is the day after.  What this meant for them is that neither had birthdays through most of their lives.  Of course, your parents don't have birthdays anyway as they're timeless and immortal while you're growing and it's one of life's biggest sadnesses when you realise they're not.

But my purpose isn't to languish in tragedy and instead I'd like to recall what I suspect are the same words any of her children would recall if asked what she would suggest the most:  do as you would be done by.  As we were quite the fractious children or quarrelsome monsters, as you will, she had occasion to use the expression quite a lot.

Yah, do as you would be done by.  It's not Shakespeare but it applies to just about everything, just about everywhere.

Today smoking is square in my face.  She had the good sense to quit smoking long before my ol' Dad and, what do you know, she lived much longer too.  One pack of cigarettes remains and shops are open today to get more but that's only to see if any resolution is sincere or simply a matter of circumstance.

It's clearly time to make every attempt to give them the only gift that ever meant anything to them and that's to stay on the planet as long as possible.  There will be plenty of time to hang out with them after and it would be a good idea to make sure there's as much material for conversation as I can find.  I have no idea if that really even happens but it would be damn foolishness to assume that it doesn't.

Do as you would be done by applies as I would be devastated to hear of one of my siblings falling to cigarettes so it's not at all fair if I do it to them.  Therefore, the time is now and I've been hearing church bells ringing this morning in celebration of this day as it seems Europeans take it quite a bit more seriously than Americans.  It also seems it would be quite a good idea if I did as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Surprise Game Nine of the Great Greek Chess Tournament at Kastro Bar

The day has been quite pleasant and I really wasn't expecting to see anyone but Mary called me up and told me she was going up to Kastro Bar with her cousin and would I like to join them.  Turning down an invitation from two ladies on Christmas is simply not going to happen so I suited up (yes, I even took a shower) and went up there.  This didn't violate the stay inside to shake the cold principle as Kastro Bar is so close that you can't get cold between here and there.  Besides, they have lovely fireplaces all over in there and it's toasty warm.

(Ed:  Ahem, the results?)

Bro, I've got to pad it out and you'll see why in a moment.  It was a great pleasure and a privilege to meet Mary's cousin, also named Mary, as I had met her daughter before but never anyone in her family who didn't live with her.  I apologized repeatedly for being so anti-social as to get into a chess death match in which neither Mary nor I talk very much so hopefully I didn't leave a bad impression!

(Ed:  Cough, cough!)

OK, then!  The reason for the padding even though I consider it much more than padding is that the game didn't feature dynamic shifts in power.  I took the tactical advantage early and somehow managed not to screw it up so it played through to the mate.  As always, the game was deadly and over-confidence will kill you faster than anything else as both of us are deadly to the last piece.  So this one went to the home team and the score for the Great Greek Chess Tournament is now tied at 4.5 all!

Mary and Mary went off to the rest of their Christmas evening and I'm back here at the house as the mission still remains the same:  stay warm and don't let the cough get out of control.  It's all good, if highly annoying, and there is no physical evidence of reason to see a doctor.  I did put a bowl of water on the heater upstairs and that did seem to make a difference.  Hopefully that will help toward shaking it soon and I do want to emphasize there is no evidence of infection, it's just a really annoying cold.

Mary, cousin of chess-playing Mary, said she brought me luck for the game and indeed she did!  It was quite charming to meet her and to talk at least a little bit.

More Sexy Farm Tools!

If you thought the Lamborghini tractor in Pyrgos was sexy then stand back!

This one is a tractor from Porsche!  So far I think the Lamborghini was the coolest one but we're not quite finished yet.

Check out the name on this one!  Yes, that does read Ferrari!

There's a flair to European style that just fascinates me!  It's not enough to simply make a tractor, you've got to make it stylish!

Yes, sure, I got all automotive again but there's more stuff to come.  I've been staying inside to shake off this cough and I'll get out rolling again for more exploration of the Greek countryside.  I love it here!

Christmas in Katakolo

There were many articles on what's been happening in my travels but not too many on what's happening with me here in Katakolo so here's a Christmas letter.  There was an orchestra at Kastro Bar last night for Christmas Eve but I didn't go.  However, they will be playing again today and I just might go up there this time.  It's not such a big journey as Kastro Bar is so close that the scooter hardly has time to warm up in getting there.

Lately I've been spending quite a bit of time at Cat Boucher's MusikCircus online as she presents a highly eclectic array of talent and it's been most entertaining and rewarding to see and hear such gifted performers.  Cat is quite charming as well as she's very humble about what she does but she built the MusikCircus and she brings it all together.  She lives in Germany and she's the reason I'm now butchering that language in addition to Greek.  No, this doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to go flying off to Germany as, even though it's cold just now, I love it here in Greece.

For the real world stuff, the coughing and hacking is still annoying but there was a medical epiphany last night that perhaps it would be a good idea to put a bowl of water near the heater in the bedroom as drying the air out too much was likely a big part of the coughing.  That seemed to help and hopefully that will take care of things.  Nothing is turning odd colors so there's no reason to see a doctor.  Ridin' the storm out!

Riding went very well yesterday as Christmas Eve was warmer than it has been and there wasn't any chance of rain.  This gave me a clear shot to take the scooter to Moto Center in Pyrgos and Babis fixed it right up by putting a new front tire on it and balancing the wheel.  The scooter now rides in a much more mannerly way and she's as safe as she's going to get.  Mary wanted a ride on it the other day and I wouldn't do it as go-faster stuff means you never ever risk your passenger.  It would be ok now and I really have started driving a little more sensibly as it's clear the scooter won't break 100 kph and it will just break the scoot if I push it.  She will do 99 kph with an assist from a tail wind but she's not going to break 100 kph (laughs).  Riding at 80 kph gets it done and that won't burn up the scooter.  (Relax!  That's not even 60 mph!)

After getting things fixed up on the scooter, I went over to see Harry and we're closing the deal on selling it.  He has been paid, along with the rent, and the papers for the transfer are in-process.  I've been carrying the money around in my pocket for a month and it wasn't burning a hole in my pocket, I just wanted to get it to him, but he knew there was something not right in the front end of the scooter and he wanted to get it fixed too.

Yesterday Harry took my papers to the police and that completed the process to get an official resident card to permit legally staying in Greece pretty much indefinitely.  There is one more step to get a tax ID from the Tax Office and that will even permit me to work, assuming there is something anyone would really want me to do (laughs).  It's not so ridiculous, tho, as perhaps teaching English is a possibility ... or something that hasn't even occurred to me yet.

Getting online to play took a jump yesterday as Harry suggested testing a direct connect to the router he's using here.  He's got it located quite close to the house and he said he would move it here if there's sufficient speed in that connection for streaming.  Greeks are highly-motivated toward avoiding spending any money that doesn't need to be spent and I'm sure the austere times bring more focus to that but it seems a general philosophy that has existed for much longer than that.  Harry is one hell of a good guy and has helped in all kinds of ways.  He has seen the Web site I made and that will get shifted over to a permanent home as soon as I work out the details on the setup Mary uses for her Web site.

One very cool thing is that Lotho has sent some long johnnies and they didn't get here for Christmas as Greece is regarded as an 'it gets here when it gets here' destination by the Postal Service (laughs).  Unfortunately, even using the Postal Service is expensive so it doesn't seem this is a practical way to send things back and forth on a regular basis.  The long underwear will be very much appreciated as you've heard the whining about the cold and it really isn't so terrible but suiting up for it is one screaming bitch!  Getting the jeans over a pair of pajama trousers was funny the first time but it got less amusing as time went by!

The dental stuff is on hold for the moment until the euros catch up with the bill but that's ok as Georgia has already done a tremendous amount of work in an incredibly short time.  It's the short time that surprised me as my original understanding was that it would take two years but in actuality it didn't take a whole lot more than a month.  It was quite a grueling month but she's a very sweet lady and she took a huge part of the sting out of it.  She had another lady dentist over to review things the last time I was there and, damn, these girls are lookers, man!  If you think you know dentists then come to Greece and be prepared to be surprised (laughs).  Thank you again to Lotho who has been such a tremendous help with this.

So it's all very good and I'm not alone as I feel you all and hopefully you all feel it from me.  It is a merry Christmas and hopefully what I'm doing is making it a little more merry for you as well.  I hope it's a wonderful Christmas Day for everyone!

Christmas Eve in Pyrgos

On seeing this picture, my friend remarked that one of the most wonderful things about just about anywhere in Europe is how people are out walking around everywhere you go and wouldn't that be a wonderful thing in America.

Christmas Eve in Pyrgos

This is the City Centre in Pyrgos and that's the city's Christmas Tree in the centre of the picture.  There were people all over the place but no-one was dashing about frantically trying to do last-minute shopping or last-minute anything but rather were happily enjoying the day with each other.  One of the things that has struck me particularly is how people here always show such good manners to each other, it's not only at Christmas.

The Sexiest Christmas Gift Ever

Farm Tractor

Yesterday while I was walking about Pyrgos, I happened upon the most incredible farm tractor I've ever seen.  If there's a sexier gift for a farmer, I can't imagine what it might be.  Now perhaps you say that a tractor isn't too sexy as maybe you've seen one then you've seen them all.  But the same thing could be said about cars then that you've seen one and then you've seen them all ... until you see a Lamborghini.  Take a look at the name plate to discover who built this tractor!

Now this could be quite a sexy gift for me ... if I needed a tractor ... and perhaps I would ... if I had a farm (laughs).

Merry Christmas one and all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Most Pitiful Christmas Tree Ever

Most Pitiful Christmas Tree Ever

This tree came as a surprise loan from Mary and, yes, this is the whole tree; it's not just the top of it.  While it's a little bedraggled, it's everything Christmas needs to be.

The message is already on the 'card' and this is a Merry Christmas wish from Greece.  It won't be a white Christmas but I can see the snow in the mountains nearby.  There won't be any smart comments about dealing with snow as right now the only thing that matters is how pretty it looks when it falls.

The 'card' tells you of my hopes for us all.  Much love!

A special Thank You to Mary as she's the one who loaned me the tree.  I was saying, oh no, no, I don't need a tree as I'm fine.  And I am fine and I have been but I'm still glad she insisted and I'm happy it's here.  Merry Christmas!

On Turning Tigers into Pussycats

There were some, well, one anyway, who did not think the ending of "The Tiger and the Monkey" poem was quite satisfactory as it was definitely a Walt Disney fade into the sunset with all the happy animals thing.

So here are some alternative endings:

The Kafka in the Jungle ending

This one sucks as no way Jethro Tull would go near it. The Tiger thinks about it for five hundred pages then eats the Monkey and says, fuck it, we all die anyway.

The neo-Kafka / Shakespeare ending

The Tiger eats the Monkey and then suffers tremendous remorse and guilt and then kills himself. Without Franco Zeffirelli shooting the movie, this one has no chance.  Besides, roses don't bloom in the jungle.  (Give yourself ten trivia points if you have any idea why those comments have relevance.  See below.)

The Quentin Tarantino ending

The Monkey kills the Tiger with a samurai sword because of all the monkeys it has eaten before.  Then the Monkey kills everyone who saw it happen. Could work but I don't see myself doing a surf-rock soundtrack that Tarantino would like.

The Shirley Temple ending

Everyone smiles and lives happily ever after. So this is the one I chose. Hey, man, it's Christmas!

On the trivia references  

Jethro Tull did a song called "Bungle in the Jungle" on their War Child album.

Franco Zeffirelli shot a lush and gorgeous version of "Romeo and Juliet" in 1968 and it featured a theme song of "What Is a Youth" which had brilliant, almost Shakespearean, lyrics about how a rose will bloom.  It's an incredibly beautiful song.

Happy Birthday to My Ol' Dad, Alex Fraser

I understand there are some other traditions for this day but it's my ol' Dad's birthday and it's starting first here in Greece as I'm eight hours ahead of my siblings in the U.S. He was the inspiration for a whole lot of things and he really loved adventures so I'm quite sure I would not be here in Greece if not for his lead. I would probably also not be broke as he was a financial lunatic too (laughs).

More than anything he inspired the thinking to give more than I take and I have never regretted that. He also thought he was quite a Casanova and for a while I was trying to emulate that too but some parts I don't need to copy anymore (laughs). So these days the Tiger is a pussycat but I'm fine with that even if it does make for softy poems. Truth be known, he turned into a pussycat too.

He could be terrifyingly loud but he's not asking at all loudly right now when he says hey there, globetrotter, why is it you are still smoking.  I hear you, ol' Dad, and I know it's time.  I want to see you again soon but not that soon.

Fark.  That last did it.  I'll take a minute for some quiet time and then get on with my busy day.  I hope it's a wonderful Alex' birthday for the family and a lovely Christmas Eve for you all.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"The Tiger and the Monkey" (poem)

There was a Tiger in the jungle
and a Monkey was his friend
Their friendship was forever
They would keep it 'til the end.
Only the Fire in the Jungle
that finally takes us all
could ever stop the friendship
that held them in its thrall.

The Monkey once grew worried
as Tigers don't eat fruit from trees
and the fear she would be eaten
kept her hiding in the leaves.
The Tiger said he wouldn't hurt her
He just wants to keep her safe
To protect her if she fell to ground
and that was why he stayed.

She said she couldn't trust him
as he couldn't live on fruit
There was nothing near the tree
and he couldn't eat the roots.
How could she ever trust him
as he knew just why she cried
She'd known big cats before him
and some of them had lied.

He said you must believe me
I only eat the things I need
I eat to stanch my hunger
and never out of greed.
Never would I harm you
You're the only friend I've got
I'm sorry you don't trust me
and that's such a bitter lot.

I'll walk quite far below you
You're safe up in the tree
If you fall I will catch you
and then you'll know you're free.
She said I know you're lying
I've seen it all before
You'll tell me you're a good one
until you reach me with your claw.

But then in time it happened,
she did fall from the tree
and that was when he caught her
and she found then she was free.
He had spoken truth in all ways
He would never hurt his little friend
and they walked on through the jungle
in a story with no end.

Results of Round Eight of the Great Greek Chess Tournament

Going into the event, the score was 4:3 with the home team (i.e. me) holding the deficit.  Tensions, of course, were extremely high (laughs) so, naturally, the event was scheduled in the Kastro Bar in Katakolo.

Mary came for battle with a friend.  Was this fair?  Noooooo!

It didn't make any difference, tho, as her friend didn't know how to play chess and didn't know much Greek either.  Her friend is a sweet lady and she's funny and these are the most important things for the Tournament anyway.

Delirio was playing a set at Kastro Bar and ...

(Ed:  Dude, is this about chess or what?)

Um, yes, good point.  I'll write another article on Delirio as they were lovely and the Kastro Bar is a great place to be any time at all.  In fact, there will be an orchestra playing there Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and I'm not sure what orchestra means but ...

(Ed:  Ahem)

Right.  So the game started out with an unusual opening from Mary and I went for the center board which is fairly predictable by now.  My thinking is unchanged in that I can be clever and play to one side or the other but that's easily defeated by castling the other way.  However, Mary shredded any standard opening but neither of us developed any significant advantage or made any significant errors for some while.

And that was when Mary blundered and tried to throw away her Queen.  That's when, according to our rules, we will say something like you might want to review that one a little further, there may be additional considerations.  If the player is determined to make the move then it's ok to go ahead and kill it but usually that doesn't happen.  However, my nobility was played to a loss of a Knight which just goes to show that nobility plays well in romance novels but not on a chess board (laughs).

It wasn't long after that when I made a similar blunder with a significant piece and Mary evened up the nobility with the same comment.  The rule is something like loss of a piece due to clever tactics from your opponent isn't refundable as it wouldn't be at all good to back up multiple moves.  It's only the single moves that cause a raised eyebrow that go back a step.

So we were even on nobility but I still had a deficit in manpower and that was made worse through loss of yet another one.  However, both of us remain dangerous until the last and we fought on.  It looked quite likely that the game would result in my defeat but that result isn't confirmed until the King has given up and my King ain't giving up!

The End Game was a fascinating dance in which one is constantly doing a great deal of arithmetic in counting moves and/or trading strategy.  I was playing for a stalemate as my deficit was too severe to have any hope of a win, not with her ability.

So I'm pleased to tell you it did play out to a stalemate and Mary said I was doing it deliberately, to which I said, hell yes, I was definitely playing for it.  A stalemate isn't as good as a win but it's much better than a loss so each team takes a half a credit on this one and the score is now 4.5:3.5.

(Ed:  Did you ever consider doing something normal people do like going to movies?)

It isn't that kind of a situation as we don't date.  We just get together every so often to beat the tar out of each other!  (laughs)

The Sun Shines over Katakolo

Yesterday featured quite miserable weather and I decided best to listen to Lotho if I was ever to shake off this damn cold so I didn't go scooting into town in it.  However, today breaks with a beautifully clear sky and sunshine.  It looks like the perfect day to find Mary and thump each other on a chess board.  What could be more Christmas than that!

I'll ride over to Kastro's Bar later today and it's so close that the scooter will hardly have time to warm up.  Mary and her daughter will be there and likely Harry and his family will be as well.  A young couple will be playing acoustic guitars and singing and this will go from three to six this afternoon.  After that everyone will go off to their evenings and most likely I'll try to get some recording happening.

The cold is definitely shaking off.  It was pretty miserable for a bit but they're supposed to make you miserable (laughs).  This was a big part of why I listened to Lotho yesterday.  As long as it's improving, tempting Fate is stupid.  I did ride over to Mary's place but she doesn't live so far from here so it wasn't at all like riding into Pyrgos.

So the automotive sequence may seem like I've lost focus altogether but that's not at all true.  I enjoy that stuff and thought you all might get a kick out of seeing a sampler of Greek vehicles.  I want to bring you as much of a perspective as I can on life over here.  Despite the weather misery, I feel like a kid in Disneyland and I want to share as much of it as possible.

Lotho sounded like he thought it was kind of a miserable existence for me as I don't seem to be doing much but every trip into Pyrgos is a treat.  There are small stores absolutely everywhere and for me it's like a Greek kaleidoscope.  It's just fascinating to me!  This isn't misery as, quite the contrary, it's an ongoing delight.  Going into town for major dental work three times a week has been a long, hard haul but I've wanted to paint that with as much fun as possible, for you all and for me.  I didn't make that up about Georgia giving me a hug and kissing each cheek.  Did your dentist ever do that!  (smiles)

Here's something else that's quite wonderful.  I can see mountains in the distance and they're not just snow-capped but they have plenty of cover for full-out skiing and they're only three hours away.  Think of it, from the beach to the snow in three hours!  Even California doesn't have it that good!  It's a lovely country and I want to show you as much of it as I possibly can plus hopefully lay out the music I've always wanted to play.  More to come!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

BMW C1 Covered Scooter

This may well be the craziest motorcycle you're ever going to see!  I couldn't help diggin' it, tho.  You can learn more about it in the Wiki.  There's also more information at Covered Scooters plus references to other covered scooters.

BMW Scooter

I was immediately intrigued on seeing it, particularly after being soaked and frozen multiple times.  Intrigue is good but futile as BMW only manufactured the C1 scooter from 2000-2003 and it's reportedly rare now.  I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I'm going to tell you that you can get it from Harry Loutas in Pyrgos.

It's an optical illusion that makes it seem like it has two rear wheels as there's bike right next to it that's largely hidden by the scooter.

If you can find a more demented motorcycle, please do let me know as I'd love to see it!

Great Greek Chess Tournament Deferred to Sunday at Kastro's Bar

There was a surprise suggestion of a game today and I'm up for a death match any time so I rode over to Mary's place to do combat.  The visit opened with a quite nice meal she had prepared and when that was done she talked about the Christmas tree ... which was in a box outside.  I suggested that maybe helping her with it wouldn't be such a bad idea.  She didn't go for it right away as it was pretty miserable out there but before too much longer we were bringing the box inside.

Here's the result:

Christmas in Greece

It was fun for me as I don't have any intention of putting up a tree at my place and it was a treat to help her with hers.  However, the biggest help came from her daughter as neither of us knew the twisted code for the branches.  Between the three of us, the tree went up in no time and then jingle bells, jingle bells, it's Christmas in Greece!

So the Great Greek Chess Tournament is deferred until tomorrow at Kastro's Bar but you can see why and I feel pretty swell for my part in it.  If you just look at the textbook, you would probably predict that I should be tragically depressed for the holidays but I'm not at all and don't be getting dramatic in suggesting I protest too much (laughs).

Best Motors ΛΟΥΤΑΣ in Pyrgos, Greece

This is Harry Loutas' Best Motors in Pyrgos and yes, kids, that is an Alfa.  Notice that it's a four-door vehicle so it should kick it up quite briskly in performance but you can also carry the whole family around in it.  Many American cars are flat-out ludicrous in their size and wouldn't even fit on the streets of Pyrgos.  You would have to park at the edge of town and walk the rest of the way (laughs).  The vehicles here are much more practical but that doesn't mean they're limited in performance.  Talk to Harry.

Here's another example of the type of vehicle you will find over here more often than large vehicles.  They're quite compact but they will still easily carry four adults so they will serve the same needs as all but the Crown Vic and larger crowd.  Forget about your Escalade as that bit of automotive hog wallow wouldn't be good for much of anything over here except ridicule.

Volkswagens are quite popular here.  Notice again the design in that it's smaller than a full-size American vehicle but it's not lacking in capacity.  Since they're smaller they consume much less fuel and this is a crucial detail in the Eurozone where fuel is priced by the liter and not by the gallon (i.e. roughly four liters).  Petrol costs much more over here so the complaints of Americans about fuel prices are met, quite rightly, with a great deal of derision.

Greek Cars - VW

Here's a Ford Focus which quite possibly is available in the U.S.  Notice again the design.  Compact but not lacking:

Greek Cars - Ford

Here is a final example, this time a Fiat, and you can see again the parallels in design.  If it's not a practical vehicle, you're not going to sell it here.  If you want one then talk to Harry as all of the vehicles featured here are at Best Motors now.

Greek Cars - Fiat

There is no payment for doing this as Harry is a friend of mine and I like to be able to give something back.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Zündapp Motorcycle at Best Motors in Pyrgos

Zündapp was a German manufacturer, founded by Fritz Neumeyer, in 1917 and which folded in 1984.  Those involved with the company make a list that's like the Who's Who of heavy metal in Germany and Fritz Neumeyer was later involved with Formula One racing as well.  You can read more about the Zündapp company in the Wiki.

You can see the motorcycle in this feature at Best Motors Loutas (ΛΟΥΤΑΣ) in Pyrgos, Greece.  Talk to Harry and maybe you can make a deal but he knows motorcycles and he likes to ride.  He's also a businessman so, who knows, maybe you can make a deal.

The motorcycle featured here appears to be from circa 1950 and here are some pictures:

Zundapp Motorcycle

Zundapp Motorcycle

Zundapp Motorcycle Badge

Here are some detail shots:

Zundapp Motorcycle - Front Brake

If you're thinking this brake wouldn't stop a bicycle, then we're thinking the same thing.  The front brake is, by far, the most important and any modern motorcycle or scooter will have at least a single disc and quite often they will have two.

Zundapp Motorcycle - Rear Brake

If you're wondering where is the rear brake in this picture then we're again thinking the same thing.  It appears to be a quite small drum brake on the right side of the hub.  The bizarre apparatus to connect the frame to the axle may be some type of suspension, your guess is as good as mine.

Of course a shot of the motor:

Zundapp Motorcycle - Motor

It's a big ol' single-cylinder thumper but it would have the advantage of being quite simple to maintain.  The displacement is unknown but I'd guess at least 250 cc.

So that was a piece of motorcycle history and I enjoyed seeing the bike as I was not familiar with this manufacturer so I was quite interested to see this machine.  It looks to be in fairly decent condition so its riding days may not be over.  More likely it will end up in the hands of a collector but that's cool too as this would be one massively rough ride so doing that on any regular basis would require some serious masochism.  You would be lookin' cool, tho!

"All I Need for Christmas is You" (video clip from "Love Actually")

Those Christmas blues were coming down pretty hard on a friend of mine yesterday and I suggested the movie "Love Actually" to her.  She said she just likes 'guy' flicks with action and explosions which, ordinarily, is very cool but they don't do much for them bluez.  She didn't much like the idea of a chick flick but this isn't yer ordinary chick flick as it's sweet as all get out but it's also quite funny.

Some of you are looking toward an Apocalypse today and that makes sense as we look for guidance in so many things from human-sacrificing jungle natives in so many other areas of life, don't we.  Somewhere people got the idea that Mayans were the Old School (very old school) hippies, that the Aztecs did all the human-sacrificing and the Mayans were the laid-back hippie scientists.  This is utter rubbish as the Mayans did plenty of heart-choppin' of their own!  (laughs)

If I really thought there were an Apocalypse impending then I would cancel the dental appt today but that ain't going to happen.  I won't see her for a week after today.  I love the lady but I regretfully will have to forego the pleasure of her company until next Friday!  I've been seeing her three times a week for a month or so!  Wowzer!!!

Thank you Lotho and Mrs Lotho for helping me and right now the best way I can show it is to send some Christmas spirit right back at you.  I know you're wondering how I could be feeling it when I'm living by myself and all but don't worry as it's real.  It's difficult but I love it and I'm happy in my ol' twisted hermit kind of way!  Much love to everyone and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tactical Matters on the European Front

Lotho was less than pleased over the lackadaisical approach to the tactical situation in which there are three key features:  cold house, rain riding and not eating much.  All of that is true but it's not out of being lackadaisical about it as there's really no choice.  Georgia is tough and sweet but the latter doesn't mean I don't have to pay her.

Lotho as he has in the past is doing a huge thing to save my ass but at least this time there's what I really believe is a realistic chance to pay him back.  What he's doing won't pay off Georgia but it's a huge help and it wouldn't do to say exactly what that means except generally that no-one knows the spirit of Christmas better than he and Mrs Lotho.  What he's doing will hopefully get me over the hump between now and getting started playing again in Second Life where I'll work my ass off given any opportunity to do it.

The biggest question from Lotho and I imagine any of the regulars is whether Greece really is feasible and I believe it is so long as I don't go lusting after expensive toys and/or expensive women (laughs).  By expensive women, I don't mean hookers but rather a lady who would prefer to be escorted in the evening by a fellow who wears something a little nicer than blue jeans or pajama bottoms.

(Ed:  so that means you won't be dating anyone?)

Correct (laughs).

I'll pull €600 from the U.S. bank each month and that'll leave about $70 US.  Hopefully that doesn't get touched in the month and that becomes the savings plan.  Out of the €600 comes €300 for rent and the remainder is survival.  The biggest killer to that in multiple ways is a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.  I started smoking in part from seeing my ol' Dad do it so it makes sense to take as much guidance from him in how he stopped.  His birthday is Christmas Eve so that seems like the appropriate day to make my move.  As he said, "It's a silly way to die."

I'm already a certified Euro with the UK passport and tomorrow I should be a certified Greek resident Euro when I get a card from the cops.  That'll let me legally sign papers such as a contract for a landline to get DSL to get online and that will cost €23 per month.  Even with my budget that's a good value so I'll be doing that for sure.

My intentions are to do as I have in sharing this as much as possible through pictures and stories along with music on the podcast.  I may do digital releases of CDs as it's not expensive to do that but we'll see how that goes.  It's all toward the Theory of Propagated Goodness.  It may not necessarily come back to you but it will come back to someone and that's not a bad thing at all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"A Love That Didn't Grow" - Alan Fraser (audio podcast)

"A Love That Didn't Grow"is the latest and it's raw but it didn't even exist until about an hour ago.  This was recorded in one pass and it's the first take.  So what the hell if it's raw, I never heard it before either!  (laughs)

It's live insofar as I can do it without a computer and it's only one track, no overdubs.  For various desperate reasons I need to sell this computer but I couldn't cart it about on the scooter anyway so I kiss it good-bye!

Maybe you ask why not do a couple more takes but the dentist kicked my ass all the way around the block today and I'm tired!  (laughs some more)

If you're thinking it's some wimpy whiny lament then you've been reading too much Barbara Cartland. This is about kicking yourself for not doing it right the first time and go ahead and tell me you haven't made that mistake!

The lyrics are in a subsequent article and I even stuck to them pretty much.  Hopefully you'll be able to tell what they are from listening.  We'll see.

"A Love That Didn't Grow" is free on the Ride the Dragon podcast now.

Nach Deutschland

In diese Sommer vielleicht gehe ich nach Deutschland.  Ich sauge mit Griechisch so jetzt muss ich auf Deutsch sprechen.  Diese ist für Musik.  Alles ist für Musik!  Oder, alles ist für Musik und die Mädchen (ich lache)!

Ich spreche nür ein bisschen auf Deutsch aber ich lerne das Eurospeak:  Bluff!

The translation for the above:  I might go to Germany this summer.  I suck with Greek so now I must speak in German.  This is for the music.  Everything is for the music.  Or, everything is for music and the girls (I laugh).

I speak only a little German but I learn Eurospeak:  bluff!

Since you may not know Eurospeak, it works like this:  if you don't know how it goes, baffle 'em with bullshit!  It's more gentle than that, tho.  You learn as much as comes to you for any given language and you show respect by using it.  If you're trying, people will help you.  If you think it helps people understand your English by talking louder, you'll be sitting on the wharf talking to seagulls.

Even though I'm not an American and really never was, I do sound like one and feel an obligation to represent.  That means manners which I like to show anyway but, to me, that also means learning as much of a fellow traveler's language as possible and I consider a fellow traveler anyone else who is riding the Earth around the sun.  I believe it's good to keep in mind that English is the foreign language here and just because someone can speak it doesn't mean they should be required to do so.

It wouldn't also be a bad idea to keep in mind that American is a foreign language in the UK but, obviously, no-one anywhere understands the Scots.

So, we'll see what comes.  There's a good chance some people from Second Life will get together in Germany for music and fun.  That sounds like one hell of a good reason to go there so it just might happen.  It would also be an outrageously long scoot but, who knows, anything is possible.  You all didn't believe I'd make it to Greece!  It's eighteen hundred kilometers one-way so it's kind of improbable but dream big!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flickr Account Re-Established for My Travels

The Flickr account Alan Fraser Travels is being populated with the pictures I've put up here on the blog as it will make it much easier to find them because you won't have to search old articles.  Flickr is an excellent photo-sharing service and, unlike Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg can't steal anything one loads to it.

This is in part a reaction to the change to the ToS (Terms of Service) for Instagram in which it has been announced that Zuckerberg and his slimy cohorts can sell anything you load out there and simply by dint of your adding a picture to Instagram you license them to do pretty much anything they want with it, specifically that they can sell it for profit.  Note specifically that this same ToS exists for Facebook and any image, anything you write, anything you create in the Facebook environment is valid for re-sale by Zuckerberg, et al.

Zuckerberg is the worst thing to happen to the Web since computer viruses as he has violated the public trust in every possible way and has violated every principle of Web sharing that has existed since the Web's inception.  This kind of narcissistic exploitation is a fiendish thing as the public is beguiled by what seems an innocent gift in the ostensibly 'free' Facebook / Instagram packages.

Flickr has existed in its current form for quite a few years and is straight-up about how it makes money. If you want the Pro services, you must pay for them.  However, the free service has no charge and that will be adequate for the requirements of many people.  It's certainly adequate for my need to be able to quickly present pictures to you of anything that pops up in my travels.

One quite good advantage of Flickr over anything else is that there is a very smooth linkage between Mac OS X in iPhoto for sharing directly to Flickr.  There is no need to use an FTP utility to transfer a picture as I tell iPhoto I want to share it and iPhoto simply asks where.

This change will really won't result in any obvious difference in how the blog is presented but it will create a collection that you can easily see and I'm pleased with that.  As with everything else about my expeditions, it's free.  Even though I'm broke most of the time, that aspect remains very important to me as share and share alike was the founding premise of the World Wide Web and perhaps it's antediluvian thinking to support that but I will do it nevertheless, happily and freely.

Riding the Whirlwind

If you have ever watched the big jets in crosswind landings in videos on YouTube then you've got a fair idea what the ride back home was like.  If you hit crosswinds like today on two wheels at 80 kph, you're going to see the Lord figuratively and, if you don't slow down quite damn quickly, you're going to see him literally.  Oh yeah, that was some seriously scary riding (laughs).

(Ed:  Wouldn't it have been a bit safer to stop for a while?)

Geez, there you go with the damn logic again.  Where can I go with that!

Although it was supposed to rain today and it did, I was quite lucky in dodging it.  I needed to see Georgia and I lucked on staying dry riding into town.  Then I needed to go to a copy place to get pictures of my mug for a resident card for Greece.  With pictures in-hand, I rode over to Harry's place so we could go to see the cops and I still stayed dry.  We rode together in his car to the police station and that's when the cloudburst came, complete with thunder, lightning, and hail!  By the time we got back to his place, it had stopped.  Along the way he had pointed out a bike shop that he believes will talk straight about what's happening with the front wheel so I rode over and still stayed dry and even on to the supermarket after that.

However ...

The storm clouds were obvious when I left the supermarket so that's when you start doing your Road Riding Calculus as to how wet will I get if I continue versus how much wetness will I prevent if I stop to put on the rain gear.  This is balanced against how much is the rain changing during the period and how much wetness will be prevented by speeding up and trying to outrun it.

I usually go with trying to outrun it and that pretty much worked but the Weather Gods saw what I did and decided they weren't through with me yet.  That's when they turned up the wind and it was coming in some almighty gusts.  Fight back hard or that wind will blow you to Cyprus!

So all of the above is because I missed the Cool Shot of the Day which was a kid on a motorbike shepherding his flock of sheep down the road.  I guess there were up to a hundred of them and it's cool going around them as they're already accustomed to the kid's bike so the scooter doesn't scare them at all.  You just carefully work your way around the side of the flock and then get on your way.  It's such a charming thing to see that I would like to get a picture of it but I was concerned about being on time for Georgia so I didn't stop.  Next time for sure!

Happy Anniversary to the Mystery Lady

Some people get divorced and hate each other.  I'm glad we're not among them.  I know you didn't want me to come to Greece and now you know it wasn't to jump a woman.  This is something I very much needed to do and I feel greater freedom than I've felt in decades.  Even when I was rolling in money and living the life of Riley in Rhode Island, really I was still in chains as the bank owned me and, as you know for yourself, working for a bank is the lowest kind of life the world offers, no matter what they pay.  Now I'm poor but I'm happier about what I do than I have been for a very long time.

I hope there's happiness in your life as well and that I can add to it by what I do in some small way.  I did not mean to disrespect the anniversary song by the poem I wrote last night.  The reason I wrote it is that I found my first high-school crush on Facebook last evening.  I didn't ask her to be friends as I thought that would be screwed-up to say something like, heya, we haven't talked in multiple decades but do you wanna be pals?  That was the basis for the poem which goes toward getting things right the first time rather than any burning need to fly back to the U.S. and start yet another wild-eyed romance!

The circumstances today aren't exactly the best as I'm alone, it's Christmas, and I'm sick as a rat (laughs).  The biggest irony is that I got the bug from Georgia, my dentist, and that's further misery today as I'm going to see her in an hour or so and it's going to rain (laughs some more).  I really do find it funny as some say the path to Heaven is eased when you live in misery.  I think that's total bullshit but it's nice to think that!

The bug doesn't appear to be getting any worse after pissing me off for some days now.  Hopefully it's just something that will annoy me for a week and then go the hell away.  I don't believe it has anything to do with scooting about in the rain as I hardly ever got sick because of skiing and I'll bust Georgia today for giving it to me.  You did this to me, damn you!  (laughs)  I'll have to be careful as her English and my Greek are pitiful and I don't want to risk real offense.

There is news that you may enjoy in that Mary messaged me about a plan here that will give me high-speed Internet for €23 per month.  They claim 24 Mb but Mary said in reality is about 11 Mb.  Nevertheless, that's plenty for audio streaming and it's conceivable I'll be able to do low-end video streaming as well.  I know you enjoyed the USTREAM shows and it may be possible to do that sort of thing again.

I hope it's a good day for you and I strongly believe love never dies!

Monday, December 17, 2012

"A Love That Didn't Grow" (poem)

I could have been a cop
I could have been on TV
I could have been a fireman
or maybe joined the Marines.
I could have bought a gun
and joined the NRA
and told all the children,
go have a nice day.

None of these damn things
are anything I'd miss
but there is one girl
I really wish I'd kissed

It's all about a love
a love that didn't grow
and that's the worst kind
as then you never know.

I could have written books
or been some kind of stuntman
I could have raced my bike
but I'd just crash it again.
I could have been a preacher
I knew all the lines
but I wanted it real,
and said some other time.

None of these damn things
are anything I'd miss
but there is one girl
I really wish I'd kissed

It's all about a love
a love that didn't grow
and that's the worst kind
as then you never know.

It's all about a love
a love that didn't grow
and that's the worst kind
as then you never know.

The tune runs at 140 bpm so count on it that this is not some smooshy love song.  It's about how you only get one shot at some things so get it right the first time as it won't come around again.  Kick out de jams!

The chords came first but they aren't solid as that got me going on what I wanted to write.  I'll put chords together again when I record.  The beats on the looper aren't exactly Ginger Baker and there's no good answer for that as it's quite difficult to replace them and impossible (I think) to modify them.  I could get hot beats with the computer but I'm sick of computers on stage.  We'll see.  (It's easy to run external audio into the looper as you can even use an iPhone or an iPad with a mini-plug to use one of the alternative inputs on the Boss RC-50.  However, there's some mixing punishment for doing that but that's too geeky to warrant description here.)

I cranked the guitar gain and levels, ignoring the clipping light on the looper, but that didn't show clipping at the record point.  I'll have to take a look at a waveform to see if that's true, tho.  If it is true and I don't get too slashed at the dentist tomorrow, I'll probably get it down sometime tomorrow afternoon / evening.

Standard disclaimer on preachers:  I have no case on faith but I have a major case on making money on it.  The NRA gets slashed because it needs slashing.

Rainbow Over Katakolo

Sure, the article on the NRA is angry but that doesn't mean there's anger overall.  When your life is driven by need, it's like a bucket with a hole in it as you can fill it but it just leaks back out again.  When your life is driven by passion, it doesn't matter if the bucket leaks as you would never want to fill it anyway.  So don't go looking for rainbows, let them come to you!

The Abdication of NRA Responsibility

In the days since the Newtown massacre, NRA proponents, male and female, have been unanimous in their defense of gun ownership and they have also been unanimously silent in any substantive suggestions as to how to stop a massacre like this from happening again.  It's even reached the point of such lunacy as suggestions that teachers should be given guns or, better yet, from Ann Coulter a suggestion that there should be more concealed-carry permits to make it easier to hide guns.

At best, the NRA types say that guns shouldn't be blamed, the shooter had a mental problem.  Well, obviously he had a mental problem as sure as hell he didn't get the idea from Doctor Spock to go to school to kill twenty children.  What's to be done about it is the problem and on that matter they're notably silent.

The NRA has consistently and categorically abdicated its responsibility toward responsible gun ownership and instead has served as little more than a marketing tool for the sellers of advanced weaponry.  Their response historically to any of the multitude of gun massacres in the country has been to send forth pretty boys like Charlton Heston or rampaging lunatics like Ted Nugent, neither of whom ever offered anything toward ensuring the safety of the citizenry and instead affirmed their willingness to do whatever was necessary to keep their guns.

There's the never-ending litany regarding the Second Amendment and the 'right to bear arms' as to how this was intended to prevent tyranny from the government.  In that context, private gun ownership has utterly failed as evidenced by everything from the wild abuses of power in Washington to cops macing girls at public protests by OWS.  It was certainly successful in the right to form militias as that has resulted in right-wing terrorist armies but they have no interest in defending the freedom of all Americans, rather their interest, as always, is in defending the right to own guns.

Moreover, regarding the protest of tyranny, protests against the governments for financial impropriety have been much larger and more effective in countries that do not permit wholesale gun ownership such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and multiple others.  America rolled over faster than a Tijuana hooker with nothing more than some whining on Facebook.  The efficacy of the private ownership of guns in defense of freedom has never been demonstrated anywhere.

Barring any suggestions from anywhere else, let all the handguns be collected and melted down for scrap.  If you really want to stop the violence, do something about it rather than just ranting on Facebook.

I further suggest that the whorish coverage of these massacres by the news networks be treated with the contempt it deserves.  They are profit-making entities and they relish the blood of the children as much as a vampire bat, however the animal is motivated by need whereas the news networks are motivated by greed.

"On a Unicorn's Wings" (The Anniversary Song) - Alan Fraser (HD video)

The Mystery Lady and I were married for nearly twenty years and our anniversary is December 18. Until I die I will never forget.  So many people think they have everything figured out but nothing is ever simple unless you're picking candy for children as they will like whatever you do.

The stars on the Galaxy Guitar twinkle more in this video than perhaps any other and that's as it should be as the Mystery Lady put most of them on her in a loving process that lasted for hours.  Some talk of true love being something you take as it imposes no obligation that way but that's utter rubbish as love is always what you give and there's only obligation if you make it that way.  The Mystery Lady always gives without reservation whether it was putting stars on the Galaxy Guitar or taking Maggie, her dog, to cheer lonely old people.  Hopefully this message will bring some cheer to her now.

I love you and I always will.  There's no chance I will ever forget.

The video was shot about two years ago in Fort Worth, Texas, using Canon videocameras and Final Cut for editing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Loading Unauthorized Books onto an iPad

After locating an EPUB for a favored title and downloading it, you won't be able to drag/drop it into iTunes for Sync to the iPad as the EPUB won't have the appropriate tattoo, handshake, or ritual dance to indicate it's an authorized book, largely because it isn't.  However, this can be solved by loading the book into a software called calibre from Calibre E-Book Management (versions exist for Apple or Windows).  In geek terminology, the objective is to defeat the DRM protection for the ebook.

After loading the EPUB into calibre, link it to iTunes within calibre and, presto, you will have an authorized copy ready for Sync to the iPad.  While I don't favor reading on electronic media in any kind of way, I favor even less not reading at all.  I like reading before sleep, when I'm lying with my head on the pillow and flipping the pages of a paperback, sometimes falling asleep and the book dropping to the floor.  I enjoy waking up later and figuring out where I was before I faded.  Don't try this with an iPad (laughs).

So, thanks, but scratch the request for books for Christmas and I do appreciate the thought.  I'm told that a pair of long-johns is in-process and that will be exceptionally fine.  I would shoot a video of putting on a pair of jeans over a pair of pajama bottoms but that probably isn't something you need to see in your life, particularly during the holidays.  It is funny to watch, tho.

Harry gave me a rider's rain coat (i.e. a thin plastic poncho-type garment) and that can easily slip on over my jacket and that's perfect.  It's ok if my jeans get wet as I can switch to the others but it's a real bitch drying out the jacket.

Merry Christmas!