Friday, November 30, 2007

Thing 1 on the Practice Chanter

Ya never know, maybe her and Poppa will play the pipes together one day. Wouldn't that be cool...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Post 3rd Lesson and Flame Retardant

'Sup Y'all. Did ya miss me? Piping is really starting to move along now that I've reclaimed my lunch break to practice. Ideally, I'd spend one hour a day, seven days a week devoted to practicing. But realistically, too many other priorities take precedence. So I've been consistently practicing for half an hour, five days a week, in my car in the parking lot at work. I get a lot of funny looks from the people out for their lunchtime stroll. But people looking at me funny is nothing new so it doesn't bother me.

"She's kinda funny, ya know."
"I know....Everybody funny...Now you funny too!"

Pop quiz, who said that? Anyways, I digress....

The following video was shot soon after my 3rd lesson. I'm still doing exercises such as D Throws and all sorts of Doublings up and down the scale. But now I'm also working on the song "Scots Wha Hae" again. It takes the monotony out of practice and is very helpful in learning sheet music.

On a side note, as you can imagine with opening up a blog to Anonymous commenting, the occasional flame bait comes my way via some troll. Rather than make anyone who wishes to post a comment register and login, I'm keeping the blog open to Anonymous posting. But I will moderate comments in order to weed out the undesirables. So don't worry if your comment is not visible immediately. If you are legit, then I'll let it through. Even the funny comments that poke fun at me in a good way, like this one. That shit is too funny!

Aut pax aut bellum.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I know that I said this blog will be bagpipe-centric and I wouldn't write about my family so much. But what can I say, my family is the most important thing in my life. Besides, I just had to share what happened last night because it was such a touching moment. Plus I know that if I don't write this down now, I'll eventually forget about it until I'm senile. At which point I'll be reminiscing out loud and everyone else will think I'm babbling nonsense (much like it is already). you remember the first time you ever saw the moon?

Neither do I. But last night was Emma's night of discovery. Watching her see the brightly-lit moon for the very first time was amazing. She had a pure sense of awe in her eyes and at the same time seemed emotionally attached to it, if that's possible. It was as if she was an explorer who had no prior knowledge of the Grand Canyon yet stumbled upon it by accident and fell in love at first sight. Watching her experience this discovery was absolutely incredible.

It all started a couple of days ago when I was reading her "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. Which should be in every kid's bookshelf in my opinion. But anyways, I digress. On one page, Max is sailing away by the light of the moon. For months now, Emma would point to Max's little sailboat and say, "Boat! Boat!". I never thought to point out the moon until now, which I did. She repeated after me and said, "Moon...Mooon...Moon".

Fast forward to yesterday afernoon, not quite dusk, when I take Emma for a ride across town to pick up dinner. We're cruising along when she yells from the back seat, "MOON!!!" Sure enough there it was, not too high in the sky and about half full. She was so happy, she kept calling out "Moon! Moon! Moon!". That is until it disappeared behind the trees to soft lamentations, "Bye Moon...Bye Moon". That is until it reappeared, "Moon! Moon! Moon!" and disappeared again, "Bye Moon...Bye Moon". This cycle went on for the rest of the car ride with the only interruptions being "Airplane! Airplane!" and "Bird! Bird!".

But the very best part of the story happened later that night, when the sun had finally set and the moon hung there in the sky. In fact, we could look out the living room window from the comfort of our sofa and see it through the trees. Even though it was her bedtime, I wrapped her up in a blanket and carried her outside for a better look. She was completely enraptured. She simply stared and whispered, "Hi Moon". Then she saw some stars and pointed them out to me, "More Moon...More Moon". Sorry, Honey, those are stars, "Stars Stars". She already knew that word from one of her favorite lullabies, but now she knows what the lullaby is about. Anyways, back to the moon.

I called my wife over to the window so she could witness this pure and untainted discovery firsthand. We just watched her watching the moon and couldn't be more thrilled. When I said, "time to go night-night" she replied, "Bye Moon". Emma is now in love with the moon.

Although I don't remember the first time I discovered it, watching my first daughter discover the moon herself is way more meaningful. Hopefully, I can share in Ava's discovery too. And now that I've written this down, perhaps I stand a chance to remember this moment and we can talk about it together when she grows up.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Latent Side Effect

I've just realized one thing that I didn't expect when I set out to learn how to play the bagpipes. When anyone learns what I'm doing, the typical response is a light-hearted joke about wearing a kilt. I suppose that if I want to be a piper, I will one day wear a kilt. It would be terrifically sentimental if I could wear the family tartan (to be explained in a future post). But what I hadn't thought of until now, is that nothing's worse than a piper with pasty white scrawny calves. So now I have to add some sets of calf raises every time I practice the chanter. Maybe I could just get some calf implants...that would sure save a lot of time. But that's risky too, cause once you open that kimono where would it stop....botox, lipo, hair plugs, back wax? The list could go on and on and on.....

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Hey SYTYCP Fans, what...did you think I forgot about you?

So, yesterday was a milestone day for our family's financial situation. Nothing big, just a tentative milestone worthy of a little celebration. I suggested we all go out to dinner at our favorite local apizza restaurant. (The good ones are called "apizza", not just "pizza".) After all, we haven't been out to a restaurant in a while. It's kind of tough to do so with two in diapers...not including myself. Anyways, we arrived, sat down and ordered our meals: Wifey got the linguini with fresh clam sauce, Thing 1 a small cheese pizza, and I ordered the lobster ravioli special. We were all so hungry that the smell of the place made us salivate.

After the waitress took our order, things started to get wild. Luckily, this place has two beautiful salt-water fish tanks to keep Thing 1 busy. Unluckily, that only used up about 3 minutes. All the while, Thing 2 is starting to fuss in her carrier seat. Normally, Thing 2 is a very happy, laid back, easy going baby. But when she starts to get tired or hungry, she doesn't give much warning until her cries reach DEFCON1. By now, Wifey is comforting Thing 2, while I'm following Thing 1 around the restaurant. (Fortunately, we're the only ones in there at the time.)

It felt like forever until Thing 1's pizza arrived, but what a joyous sight when it did. Maybe now things will settle down and we can all eat. Or maybe not.

Thing 2 was still fussing while Wifey and me ate our salads. Wait…allow me to clarify...Wifey is eating her salad with one hand while holding Thing 2 in the other hand. And I am eating salad with one hand while making sure Thing 1 doesn't launch herself out of the booster seat with the other hand. That's how we ate our salads – one handed, and then the awesome meals arrived.

Oh how delicious our meals looked! And they were delicious….at least only the few bites we managed to scarf down. By now, Thing 2 was at Code Red and poor Wifey took her for what was to be a short ride in the car so she could fall asleep. While Wifey was driving around, Thing 1 puts down her pizza bone (the leftover crust piece), raises her arms as if to signal a field goal, and declares "DONE!"


Unbeknownst to me, while I'm trying to keep a leash on Thing 1 (picture trying to hold down a cat on a veternarian's examination table), Wifey is parking somewhere in order to nurse Thing 2. Fortunately, the waitress was on the ball and gave me some take away containers to fill up while she rang up my bill. You try packing away two Italian dinners and a small cheese pizza while trying to prevent Thing 1 from climbing over the booth, taking off wall decorations, and throwing Exorcist-like fits when you try to control her. Where is Wifey with the car?!?!?

Just as I finish packing up and signing the check, Wifey pulls in the lot. I haul Thing 1 out with one arm while holding a bunch of food in the other. Wifey opens the car door and all I can hear is Thing 2 wailing away. Hurry up and get everyone in the car....ooops I dropped the binky....which Thing 1 reminded me with cries of "BINKY! BINKY! BINKY!"

Finally, we're in the car and on the way home, hungrier than ever so we chowed down on Thing 1's pizza. Thing 2 fell asleep, and Thing 1 sat quietly (how ironic).

The moral of the story is that going out to dinner with two in diapers can be a stressful event where lots of food gets ordered but very little gets eaten. Kids will scream, cry and wreak havoc while Mom and Dad reach their wits end. It may have cost $48.44 for dinner (including generous tip), but we know these kinds of memories are priceless. One day when the kids are grown and we can all sit down to eat like civilized people, we'll reflect upon outings like this and laugh....and cry...because we'll actually long for them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Other Man....

I keep nagging my wife if she's been reading my blog. She says 'yeah yeah yeah', but she's not referring to the amazing art-punk group Yeah Yeah Yeahs headed by the fabulous Karen O. Then she comes right out and says something to the effect of "The new blog is just not that interesting anymore." Apparently she liked the old format where I spewed about nothing in particular, but usually about family life. Then I ask if she's watching the video posts, she admits "No". She says that no one is watching them. (zoom in to the lone teardrop as it hits the floor)

This might sound harsh, but it isn't. I can count on my wife to be totally honest with me.....80% of the time. And I can count on my wife to have a terrific sense of humor.....100% of the time. I'm not doing her justice, but when she ranks on the new Bagpipe blog, she is hilarious and I do appreciate the feedback. So in her honor, this post is about the Other Man I found in our bed last week.

I caught this very hairy guy in MY bed reading a sultry book...the nerve. He was a rocker type with lots of hair and he was still wearing a leather jacket! This guy was so brazen that he merely sat there staring at me, as if I was the intruder. After confronting my wife, she said he was Emma's date. Emma's date?!?!?!? So I took a picture to document the blatant act of defiance from this little hairy rocker man....

Monday, September 10, 2007

It'll get Worse before it gets Better...

As I mentioned, my teacher stressed the importance of practicing my exercises over and over and over again. I'm practicing what are called "D Throws" and "Double C's". The exercises are to play these special notes on top of going up and down the scale. The first time I tried them was during the lesson last week and it was really tough, taking a lot of concentration for every note. I've only been at it a week and I can already sense some improvement. Don't get me wrong, as you'll see in the video I need LOTS more practice. But it's very exciting to feel myself improve, even if in the slightest baby steps.

The best part about being so crappy right now, is that I know with practice, one day I'll be much better. And that's the whole point of these video posts. One day, a couple-few years from now, I'll be a passable bagpiper. Then I'll string these videos together to show my daughters that if something is worth doing well then it is worth doing poorly. After all, if it was so easy then everyone would be doing it right? You're probably thinking while that may be true for things like golf or playing the piano, somehow I don't think that applies to the bagpipes. Who could blame you, it seems as though the bagpipes are like the Scion either love 'em or hate 'em. I happen to love both, but in the next post I'll tell you why I love the bagpipes. Until then, here's a hint...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jerry Lewis is a Douchebag

I never thought he was funny and always wondered how anyone else could. Now I think he's a real douchebag that shouldn't be allowed on television anymore.

The other night we saw a short interview with Jerry Lewis on TV. The interviewer asked for his opinion about Paris, Britney and Lindsay. Now I know it was a leading question, because while not role models Jerry referred to them as broads. Broads?!?! What cave did this douchebag crawl out of.

By now I've learned it's a setup because the interviewer then asks him if "America is ready for a female president". First of all, I can't stand that question. If you have to ask then it is YOU who are not ready. Well, I'm sure you know what Jerry said. Who the hell is he to say what a whole country is ready for or not. I'm sick and tired of people asking this stupid question. We're supposed to be the land where everyone's equal right? Or was Jefferson embedding sexism into our national psyche when he wrote that all MEN are created equal. (begin sarcasm)Like any person, let alone a woman, could do as good a job as W has done.(end sarcasm) Getting back to the first douchebag....

I'm assuming that Jerry doesn't have any daughters otherwise this type of sexism should be repulsive to him. It'll be ironic if when the time comes to meet his Maker and it turns out SHE has been waiting for him. Jerry Lewis is a douchebag.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Decisions Decisions...

So I met my new teacher for the first time today. I like her a lot because her philosophy is rooted in the fundamentals. My first homework consists of performing D Throws, Double C's and Double E's up and down the scale not from memory but from reading sheet music. The sheet music she supplied only consists of the first half of the scale (going up) so I'm also tasked with writing the music down on paper going in both directions of the scale. I'll post a picture of that when complete and a video of me playing these exercises. These drills are tough, so right now I sound like crap, but I know I'll get better with practice. The plan is to take another video just prior to my next lesson in one month. It'll be interesting to contrast my skills at each of these "video" points.

Having met my new teacher has gotten me even more enthusiastic about learning to play the pipes in hopes of one day becoming a full-blown professional. It's also got me contemplating whether or not it's worth it to join the band this early in the process. Although the guy who gave me my first two lessons is awesome and taught me so much in such a short amount of time, it seems their goal is to get me playing songs as fast as possible. But my goal is to become a good bagpiper, regardless of the song, which seems to conflict with their goal. On top of that, it's an hour drive one way to see the band and the lesson lasts only a half hour whereas my new teacher is 5 minutes away from my job. On the other hand, they are so cool! Argghhh, decisions decisions...

Making the decision to stick it out with the band is tough, because I would like to be a part of the group as well as a solo piper. I think I know what I'm gonna do, but I'm curious to see what you think.....Pipe the Vote!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

So, I've been practicing "Scots Wha Hae Wi' Wallace Bled", which translates to "Scots who have with Wallace Bled". Here are the lyrics in Scots

'Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae your gory bed,
Or tae Victorie!

'Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie!

'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him on wi' me!

'By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee!'

Take a look at the video I promised you of me playing this tune.....

Seriously though, I have been practicing this song a lot, but I suspect that may be put on hold starting Tuesday. On Tuesday, I meet my new bagpipe teacher for the first time. From our conversations, she seems to be a "stickler" for the basics and plans to give me lots of homework which I am excited about. I don't just want to learn how to play songs, I want to learn how to play the bagpipes the right way. Maybe by the time Reid and Soanya finish their 1000 day journey, I'll reach the goal I set out for this first real public performane on the bagpipes. Anyways, I'll post again after I my first lesson with my new teacher.

Here's the link to the mp3 I used in the video if you're interested.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


So last night, my current wife tells me that she liked the old blog better. Although she couldn't explain exactly what she liked better about the old blog, she'd rather read that than posts about bagpipes. Well, on her behalf, I suppose it's okay to regress into old Shrektum once in a while. It just so happens that I have something to say.

You ever notice how one day it became acceptable to peddle porn on the freeway? On my way to work and school, I see roughly 5 billboards advertising local sex shops. Each billboard has the image of a single female, while not nude, is in a sexually suggestive pose. Granted, it wasn't until I had my girls that I really took notice of these billboards. How many kids have been in the backseat on family outings that see and read these things? I don't want my kids to ask me one day, "Daddy, what does XXX mean?" More importantly, I don't want my girls to see advertising that turns women into sex objects. (Yes I know that sex sells and it's everywhere, but I'm trying to stay focused here.)

I did some web searches and apparently there are others who are just as pissed off. A couple of states managed to push through laws only to be struck down later because they supposedly violated First Amendment rights. So then I started thinking, what about a boycott on the OTHER products that the outdoor advertiser also sells billboard space too. Imagine that. But guess what, take a look at most billboards and at the bottom you will see the outdoor advertiser company name....except on the porn ones! Those sly bastards don't want their name associated with the products they push?!?!

I urge you to write to your state's attorney general to voice your concern. In Connecticut that would be Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. I'll also keep you posted in my effort to form a letter writing campaign to the outdoor advertisers and their other customers.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Reading is FUNdamental

As I told the band member that gave me my first two lessons, it's been over 20 years since I've read any sheet music. That didn't stop him from passing me a copy of "Scots Wa Hae Wi' Wallace Bled" and said, "you can read this right?" Honestly, I couldn't even pronounce the song title nevermind read the music...but I aim to learn in short order. I read online that a great way to learn to read sheet music is to learn to write sheet music. So I took the song he gave me and transcribed it onto another sheet, studying the notes as I went from bar to bar. Here is my copy in all its glory...

Now I just have to learn how to play this song. I'm doing my best to learn the song by reading the music as opposed to simply memorizing which notes to play. Sort of like the 'give a man a fish, teach a man to fish' proverb. Give someone a sequence of notes and they can play a song, teach someone how to read music and they can play any song. You like that? I just made it up.

Anyways, the next video to upload is my massacre of the first couple-few bars in super slow and non-rythmic 6-8 time. Which reminds me, anyone have an old metronome that needs a new student?

Homeless Pipe Band

As it turns out, the band is being forced to find a new weekly practice location. Until now, they've been practicing in an unused building on the campus of University of Connecticut at Avery Point. An absolutely gorgeous setting for a walk or picnic, let alone play the bagpipes. Have a look for yourself...

Finding a new home for a bagpipe band is not as easy as it seems. First, you need a place that can hold 20-30 people, a separate room(s) for the drummers, and it has to be noise tolerant. Most importantly, drinking beer must be allowed. After all, this is a Scottish pipe band. Oh well, I'm sure with so many dedicated and enthusiastic people in the band, it will all work out. I just hope it's not any farther away from my house because currently it takes me an hour to drive to Avery Point. You think my wife will let me invite the band to our crib?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lesson 2

So I went for my second lesson with the Pipe Band and learned to play the G, D and E grace notes. I also learned what D Throws and Burls are. Like grace notes, they are also embellishments. I've only just had the lesson so I'm still working out the grace notes as you can see in this video.

Fortunately, I've also found a teacher right near where I work. She says she's a stickler for the basics, which excites me because I want to learn how to play the bagpipes properly. The plan is to take a lesson with her once a month and one with the band at the same rate. Ideally, I'd take a lesson once a week, but lessons aren't cheap and that's about all the "free time" I have. I'm very lucky that my wife is so supportive, but I don't want to push it. That's another way of saying I'm well trained and house broken.

The Pipe Band is playing in a parade this afternoon and I might take my daughter. The problem is that it's a long drive there and there will be mad traffic on the way back. If we do make it, I'll take some video to share with you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

First Lesson

This video was taken 4 days after my very first lesson. My second lesson occurred this week, posting to follow later this weekend. Once this journey reaches the milestone of "official piper" status, I plan to package all of these video clips into a DVD so my kids can learn one simple lesson:

"If something is worth doing well, it is worth doing poorly."
-- Zig Ziglar

Shrektum: The Remix

The other day I took my kid to the reservoir for a nature walk and to let my dog go for a swim. I captured it all on film and even stayed up late that night to edit it by adding music, an opening title and ending credits. It came out pretty good, but then I thought....wait a minute. There are a couple scenes that would enable anyone to figure out exactly where we are. I love sharing videos and pictures to friends and family, but I can't control who goes to this blog. Apparently, traffic to little ol' Shrektum can be heavy at times. (lame joke) Seriously, I started to rethink posting pictures of my kids. On top of that, I've been struggling to find topics to write about. In the end my blog had no focus, it wasn't really blogging anything.

I view blogs as a way to chronicle some journey, like a modern-day ships log. For an example of what I mean, check out this amazing blog 1000 Days at Sea. After all, my blog started by following my cousin's and his friend's kick ass vacation blog. When their vacation ended, so did their blog. That's when it hit me, I'll keep a blog of my journey to become a bagpiper. I already aim to capture my progress over the next several months so why not share it online.

So the new long term goal of this blog is to chronicle my journey to become a full-fledged bagpiper. The finish line for this blog is when I perform in my first parade or any other public concert. Short term goals for The Shrektum Remix are to capture video after each lesson (two a month) and to write about the things I'm learning along the way.

Hopefully, it'll be interesting enough for you to continue visiting. But I suspect many of you visit while you're at work. So I could put up a "Watch Paint Dry" blog and you would still visit.


P.S. The Lighthouse post remains from the original Shrektum mix because it generated so much discussion at work. Plus it's my favorite post.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I went to college with this guy that never seemed to lose his cool. No matter what was thrown at us, he didn't let it get to him. Of course he is a human being, so he would get frustrated or upset from time to time, but he never dwelled upon it. He simply wouldn't let the negativity take root. He never buried it deep inside only to blow up later, rather he really seemed to let it flow right past wind blowing around a lighthouse.

On top of that, he was always smiling. I know what you are thinking, after all it was college so maybe he was on something. But I don't think so because now we work together and he hasn't changed a bit. In fact, there's a lot more to get frustrated with at work than there ever was in college and it still doesn't faze him. Since I met him and to this day, I admire that quality to no end. The time has come for me to try and emulate that trait. I need to do this in order to become a better role model for my girls before its too late.

I've met other people like my friend from college, but their inner strength and patience comes from a love of Jesus Christ. That's terrific and I am happy for them, but I'm an agnostic so that's not really an option for me. I need a more pragmatic approach; therefore, I'm going to start practicing at work.

One person at work in particular really tries my patience. Communication with this person is often frustrating and drains me of all patience. I can literally feel arteries hardening within two minutes of "conversation". Rather than give this person so much power over my life, I'll respond instead of reacting. I'll do that by remembering that she is human too. I don't have to like her, I just have to remember that she's got problems just like I do. Looking from 30,000 feet, we're all just squirrels trying to get a nut, right? If I can do that, then maybe I can become a lighthouse myself. And if I can become a lighthouse, then maybe I can raise a couple of them too.