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30 October 2014 @ 09:05 pm
My work phone had been having issues for a while. When it was new it was able to hold a charge till bedtime, but that changed somewhere along the way. I soon learned to leave internet and wireless off all the time, unless I actually needed it just that second, in hopes that I wouldn't need to charge it again by lunch. Then it started having even weirder battery issues--like if I tried using the phone it would often suddenly scream that there was only 1% battery remaining, and I had better plug it in NOW. When that happened either one of two scenarios would play out. Either I would succeed in plugging it in on time, and it would then happily say "charging 58%" (or whatever the number had been before its no-power panic attack), or it would turn itself off, and then, after I plugged it in and turned it back on, it would promptly say "charging 58%" (or whatever the number had been before its no-power panic attack). When this started to be a regular occurrence I asked my bosses if I could get a new phone.

They said yes, and today it finally arrived. Needless to say, once I picked it up this morning I didn't accomplish anything else other than getting the new phone set up and data transferred over. So far, so good. The new phone came with a battery that was half charged, and since it spent part of the day plugged into a computer it is still doing fine with 38% charge remaining, despite having had both wireless and internet turned on for most of the day and my adding apps and data and changing the settings to suit my preferences.

The phone is a little larger, with better screen resolution, so the same apps look much better and show more information at once. The old phone would give me suggestions for what word I might want when typing, but it gave English suggestions if I had the English keyboard active, and Swedish suggestions if I had the Swedish keyboard active, and it seemed like I always wanted the keyboard that wasn't active at any given moment. The new phone doesn't care which keyboard I am using, it makes suggestions in both Swedish and English all of the time. This means I can just leave it in the Swedish keyboard all the time and type in what ever language seems appropriate just now, and it will help cover my spelling issues (though, of course I have turned off the damn auto correct feature--I demand total control over when and if I will use its suggestions!).

After work we went and bought a phone case for it, one that lets me keep the few id and credit cards I need all of the time in the case. Then we took the lanyard off of the phone case I had made myself for the last phone and sewed it to the new case, so now it hooks into my phone baldric and I don't have to worry about ever dropping it. I have no idea why lanyards with hooks on them aren't standard issue for phone cases. This one isn't as good as the one I had made for the other phone, as the compartments for cards isn't as useful, but I don't have time or energy to do the fitting required to make one, so this time we opted to just go shopping. If I am not happy with it I can always take it apart and use it as a pattern for where the holes should be and make a better case using the plastic phone holding part.
26 October 2014 @ 03:13 pm
The local grocery store today actually had a few pumpkins available (I think there were perhaps 8 or 10 of them when we got there). I love fresh roasted pumpkin seeds, so one of the pumpkins followed us home. Oh, my, I had forgotten just how much more seeds a pumpkin has than the little butternut squash they normally carry! Yum!

We cut the pumpkin into large chunks and put it into the oven to roast, and set the seeds in another pan above them to roast. The seeds were, of course, rescued much sooner than the pumpkin, which cooked to a very soft texture and generated a fair bit of pumpkin water, which I then combined back into the pumpkin with a staff mixer (after removing the peel). I had intended to just freeze all of it, since we had butternut squash risotto and bread rolls just last week, but then it occurred to me to try an experiment with a bit of it before freezing the rest for later use in soups, bread, and risitto.

I have never liked pumpkin pie, because it is so sweet, but I like plain custards. How about if I try mom's pie recipe without any sugar at all (instead of the 1 cup! of brown sugar she uses), but with just the three eggs, two cups of milk, spices, and a couple cups of the pumpkin puree?

I wasn't feeling motivated enough to do a pie crust, so I just buttered a 13 x 9" glass cake pan, and it is getting close to done baking in that. Looking good so far, I will report back later...

Edited to report: I like the custard as it is, and combined with savory dishes as part of a meal. My housemates like it as desert, with a bit of sweet syrup poured over it.
25 October 2014 @ 10:01 pm
A week or so ago I learned to play the Swedish Folk song, Ulven, Räven och Haren, by just looking at the sheet music and working out which strings to hit on my hammer dulcimer--I skipped my normal step of writing out the letters so that I could look at the letters while trying to learn it, and it worked quite well, but then, it doesn't have very many notes.

Today I just printed out the sheet music for Bacche, Bene, Venies, and was able to hit the correct strings for that one, too. Not yet in the right timing, of course, but I am managing to go direct from sheet music to hitting the strings if the music isn't complicated. This delights me so much I had to delay yoga long enough to tell someone...
24 October 2014 @ 05:46 pm
We woke up this morning to several new centimeters of snow. Sadly, the day was already warming, and before long the still-falling snow turned to rain. And then back to snow, and then back to rain. It repeated this pattern pretty much all day. I rode in to the office this morning with lord_kjar, since there was also a strong wind blowing from uni towards our house, and I didn't care to walk into it. I accomplished a few things this morning before my Master's student did his presentation, and then I walked home around lunch time. The mixed rain and snow meant that all of the paths on campus were deep in very wet slush, that had just enough snow in it that foot prints hold their shape. I hope it doesn't freeze again till that stuff melts further and runs into the still-open drains, or the going will be doubly treacherous, since it would then be both slick and painfully lumpy to land upon.

Luckily, most of my walk home was pleasant, since no one had yet traveled upon the new bike path between uni and our neighbourhood, so it looked like smooth pretty snow when I got to it (but my footprints behind me looked very, very wet, so the snow is only a surface layer). Even so, I was a bit tired of walking through it when I was most of the way home, and I opted to take the short cut across the fields rather than go around by the road. This was, perhaps, not the wisest option, since the slushy snow was deeper there, and the underlying ground uneven, which resulted in my boots rubbing painfully against my ankles. Somehow I don't think I will head that way again without skis for the rest of the winter, unless the snowmachines trample a path. And both of those options assume that we will cool back off and get a proper winter, which, of course, remains to be seen.

This evening we have our band over, and I am looking forward to doing music, and we have nothing special planned for tomorrow. Sunday some friends come to visit, and that will be fun. They stay till Monday, and, since I worked today, I don't need to go into the office Monday morning.
23 October 2014 @ 06:43 pm
I am loving my new job. Sure, the lab doesn't exist yet, but it is getting closer. There is a big wooden box in the hallway outside of the lab room (which is still being renovated) that contains the coolant system. The ICP-MS unit is on a truck on its way here from Germany. Hopefully they haven't shipped the laser yet though, since the manufacturer says that once it is delivered we need to get it hooked up to the ICP-MS system within three weeks, or it will have leaked too much of the gases that it comes pre-loaded with, and then something terrible, no doubt, will happen. Or, at least something expensive.

Today I spent 1.5 hours meeting with the researches who hired me talking about the lab and what all still needs to be done before the equipment arrives and soon after it gets here. I am keeping so busy I often wind up more than working my half time, but then on other days I go home early to make up for it, so now I am only 1.4 hours ahead of where I should be at this point in the month.

Part of the reason I am ahead at all is that I went to a course today on how to run the system for making web pages at the uni. The course was held in Swedish, but I did just fine with it, and learned lots. Looking forward to improving our lab web page, but not before Monday at the soonest.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a day off for me, but my Master's student, who was supposed to finish his degree last Spring, is finally doing his presentation tomorrow, and I have to be there, so I will go in for an hour or so.
22 October 2014 @ 07:41 pm
My mother, darttn, has asked me a question about livejournal settings that I can't answer:

"Two questions. How do I set my page to show an 8 x 10 page, instead of having to scroll left and righ to read each line.

Second, there used to be a note on the bottom of the page to say "everything has been read" or something like that. Now there is nothing, so every message you send stays there instead of only the title showing."

I have no clue, does anyone else have any ideas that might help her?
19 October 2014 @ 09:13 am
When I woke up and looked out the window this morning at first I couldn't tell if there had been a heavy frost or a light snow, but then I saw that the snow was still falling from the sky (but couldn't have been doing so for long, given how little had landed--besides, the sky was clear and starry when we got home last night), so I got up and dressed and went out to enjoy it. Beautiful! It kept falling for the 30 minutes I was out enjoying the forest. By the time I got back there wasn't yet 1 full centimeter of accumulation, but it is still coming down, so am hopeful that it might amount to something and stick (it has been -3 to -9 C all week, with no snow yet (other than the brief dusting we got at the beginning of the month on a day it was +3, so didn't last at all), so the ground is cold enough to keep the snow from melting, if we don't get any more bad (read: above zero C) weather. (Ok, so after all of the warm spells of last weather, which meant we never got decent, fun to play in, snow, I am a little paranoid.)

Last night was a folk dance evening--one of those gatherings that are a huge part of the reason I live in Sweden. Picture if you will, an old fashioned one-room school house, filled on one end with musicians playing violin, nyckleharpa, bass, clarinet, and even tuba, and the rest of the hall filled with dancers. We actually had more musicians than dancers for most of the evening, so the sound was fabulous. The occasion this time was a folk music course that had happened during the day (we didn't attend--the course was full before we had time to even ask about it), so the evening dance was scheduled to give the musicians an opportunity to keep playing, and they seemed to really enjoy it. Unlike some of the big folk dances that happen during the summer Spelmannstämman gathering of musicians, this event attracted only people who either wanted to dance or wanted to play--there were no people just standing around watching. However, we had an odd number of dancers. I know this because there were a number of dances where I danced by myself, since everyone else was already dancing with someone or playing a musical instrument. Luckily, I also enjoy dancing by myself, so it was all good.

The fact that I have been getting up early so that I can do the 45 minute walk to work and still be there by 07:30 (and sometimes even earlier) means that I have also generally been going to sleep fairly early. This, not surprisingly caught up with me, and as the clock neared 22:00 last night I was getting pretty sleepy, though, of course, still dancing, if not with quite as much energy as when the night was young. I was contemplating if I should lord_kjar and our housemate, C, if we should call it a night and head home so I could get to sleep, but before I got around to asking the musicians did one final number and started packing up. I remember a time when I would have been disappointed to have the dancing end so early in the evening, but, on this occasion I was delighted, as I really was pretty sleepy, but I also didn't want to miss any dances. If they were done playing then I wouldn't miss any.
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17 October 2014 @ 11:59 am
There are no other hammer dulcimers anywhere in northern Sweden, so far as I have been able to discover, so I have been teaching myself how to play, which goes slower than I might have liked, since this is my first instrument. Even so, I have managed to learn to play the melodies of 7 songs reasonably well, and am working on a few more. But it takes time, sometimes a few weeks of effort, to memorize the notes I need to play to manage a melody. One of the guys in our band worked out the chords I could play instead for one of our songs, and it was simple enough that I was able to play along reasonably well on that first evening, even if I wasn't always hitting the string set I should have been.

Therefore I have had it in the back of my mind to learn the chords for more songs, in hopes that I could be playing along faster. Which is why, when I found out the new guy attending nyckleharpa nights is a guitar teacher for his day job, I asked if he would like an unusual student. He agreed that it sounded like a fun challenge, and last night was our first session.

Being the first attempt at teaching a dulcimer player who has only bits and drabs of self-taught music theory we only managed one song all evening, but we managed it. Part of the challenge is that since chords (often) contain notes, but I have two hammers I can use at a time, there are lots of possible options to play the chords.

For example, one of the chords we needed is the G chord, which contains the three notes G, B, and D. I could play that by hitting them one at a time, one after another as G-B-D or G-D-B (and we will forget about the other options that start with the B or the D, because he says that it is good to establish that it is a G chord by hitting that one first), or I can play two of them simultaneously and then the third promptly thereafter such as G+B, D or G+D, B (again, skipping the options where there is no G to start with, because of the value in having it at the beginning of the chord). Or I can play two at a time, followed promptly by another two, such as G+D, G+B. No doubt there are lots of other ways it could be done, but it was the last option that we settled upon.

The song we decided to work on last night is Lokomobilen, a popular local Swedish folk dance tune. Because he is a guitar teacher and chords are what he does he looked at the sheet music and instantly knew which chords go with it, and he wrote them down above the sheet music. And the sequence of letters looked confusing and hard to remember the pattern: GGDGGGDGCGDGCDGD. But then he pointed out that if you look at it in groups of 4 there is a very clear, easy to understand pattern:

GGDG x 2
CGDG x 2

Then he taught me which notes to play for those chords:

G = G4+D5, G4+B5
D = D5+F#4, D5+A5
C = C5+E5, C5+G4

And then he mentioned the D7 chord, which is nearly the same as the D, but has one extra note, a C, which, he says, note helps the listener better expect the transition to the following G chord. That bring the total number of notes for the chord to four, which means that instead of playing the base note twice, once with each of the other notes, I can play two of them and then the other two, like this: D7 = D5+F#4, A5+C5.

Note that the numbers next to the notes refer to which octave the notes are in, where C4 is the note that is called "middle C" on a piano, and C5 is the C one octave up from there.

These chords are all from the key of G, which is the key the song is in, so all of the notes used are notes from that key. The key of G contains the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. If I understand it correctly, we generally want the lowest note in a given chord to be the base note for that chord. Since my hammer dulcimer has two full octaves (# 4 and 5) with all of the possible notes, and another two octaves for which some of the notes exist (#3 and 6), we decided to use the notes from octaves # 4 and 5. Since the octaves are grouped from C to C this means that the notes in the key of G will fall into two groups with different numbers. Given the instrument we choose the version of the key of G that includes the notes G4, A4, B4, C5, D5, E5, F#5, and G5.

However, when we tried various combinations, for this song it happened to sound better to play the F#4, instead of the F#5, for the D chord the lowest note is actually lower than the base note. He assures me that this is totally ok—that people playing the piano nearly always choose to play the combination of notes that is easiest to reach from where they are just now that make up that chord. However, in this case the choice was based on how it sounded, not which was easiest to play, since the F#5 happens to be equally easy to reach from the other notes in the chord as the F#4 is.

Here is a photo of which strings I hit for each of these chordsCollapse )
The only other complication I should record here is that since the sheet music is in 4/4 we decided to hit one pair of strings for each beat, which gives time to play each chord twice per measure. Therefore, even though the above pattern says play these four chords and then repeat the same four and then play the next four and repeat, what I really do is double up each of the individual chords, so the whole song winds up looking like this:


(keeping in mind that the D7 is what is played right before returning to the G, so for the pair of Ds in each section I play the first as a D chord, and the second as a D7 chord.

And, really, it all feels easier than this long-winded explanation makes it sound, but I think it is worthy my time typing it all up, so that I am certain that I not only remember, but actually understand.