Thursday, December 21, 2006

Physical Training Status

In all my Charger-related excitement, I haven't posted much about my physical training. In summary, these are the programs I've tried in recent months:

4 x 7

A program designed by Scott Sonnon that incorporates the Three Wings of CST (Intu-Flow, Prasara Yoga, and Clubbell Training), for improving general athleticism (strength, explosiveness, etc.).


An all-bodyweight strength and conditioning program addressing the Six Degrees Of Freedom, based on Prasara Yoga. From the Wiki page:

Six degrees of freedom (6DoF) refers to motion in three dimensional space, namely the ability to move forward/backward, up/down, left/right (translation in three perpendicular axes) combined with rotation about three perpendicular axes (yaw, pitch, roll).


My current program - I practice Clubbell lifting that is focused on the Bullwhip Combination Routine and a personalized Viniyoga routine on alternating days.

A little bit about each:

4 x 7

The "4" is the four days of a cycle in this program. The "7" is the total number of 4-day cycles, thus bringing the length of the program to 28 days. Day One is Moderate Intensity, Day Two is High Intensity, Day Three is No Intensity (active recovery with joint mobility emphasis), and Day Four is Low Intensity (active recovery using Prasara Yoga, to prep the body for more work). The Day One and Day Two sessions utilize Clubbells, a pullup bar, and a box (or similar implement) for strength/explosiveness training and conditioning. When I tried 4x7, I enjoyed the exercises but I decided my lower back was not ready for the plyometric jumps and the Four Corner Squats (sophisticated variations of the one-legged squat). Also upon retrospect, I was working with a heavier Clubbell than I should have been using for the 2-handed Clubbell exercises of this program.


The FlowFit program consists of 7 exercise families to address the aforementioned Six Degrees of Freedom. Each exercise family has four variations, one for each level of difficulty. In addition, there are Flows, each of which consists of a members of each of the seven exercise families linked together into one continuous movement. There are four Flows, one per difficulty level. This program was designed to be as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. The Level 1 Flow and exercises, for example, utilize a sturdy stool as a prop for those who are really, really out of shape or recovering from serious injury. As with several other CST programs, the ultimate goal of FlowFit is to achieve "flow-state", otherwise referred to as "being in the zone", which is what elite sportsmen and women such as Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Tom Brady experience at the very top of their games.

My personal experience with FlowFit was that it was at first a welcome relief for my back from the plyometric jumps, Four Corner Squats, and heavy two-handed Clubbell work of 4x7. But then I noticed left shoulder soreness and left knee soreness - both joints were previously injured - start to reappear and gradually be aggravated.


Viniyoga, according to the American Viniyoga Institute website, is

an approach to Yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual - giving each practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
This approach evolved out of the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India.

My previous experience with Yoga, the 12-week course in Iyengar-style yoga, had a positive effect on my low back recovery. However, I was intrigued by the personalized approach to Yoga study and practice promised by Viniyoga, so I found a local instructor and began taking lessons. I am now four weeks into my personalized version of the 10-session low back recovery program developed by Gary Kraftsow at the AVI. My teacher in particular customized the program to address my previous shoulder issue, as well as monitor my low back and adjust the program accordingly. Unlike Iyengar style which seems to place more emphasis on getting into a posture and holding it there, my Viniyoga program places more emphasis on gentle movement into and out of postures, in sync with the breath. So far, the positive effects on my low back recovery have been noticeable and more dramatic than when I took the Iyengar class.

The Bullwhip is a combination routine for single Clubbell, which consists of the component exercises known as the Parry Cast, Arm Cast, and Front Pendulum. I feel this is also having a positive effect on my back recovery.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

AJ Smith, General Manager of the San Diego Chargers

AJ Smith is the chief architect of the resurgent San Diego Chargers. When he was named the new General Manager in spring of 2003, the Chargers had not had a winning season since 1996. They were a perennial laughingstock of the NFL. Check out this great article on how Smith took over, and how he rebuilt the team into the winner that it is today.

Smith clearly believes the key to building a winning team is a solid draft. The 2004 NFL draft was AJ's first truly great draft. It netted the following standout players:

QB Philip Rivers - Now the trigger man of the NFL's highest scoring offense

DE Igor Olshansky - Solid run-stopper and contributor to the NFL's top pass rush

PK Nate Kaeding - Solid kicker who has several touchbacks this year

Offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Shane Olivea - Key players on the Chargers' best offensive line in years

OLB Shaun Phillips - One of the AFC's top pass rushers, who is also solid in pass coverage and tackling

RB Michael Turner - Capable backup to the great Ladianian Tomlinson,who has made some big plays. Also an excellent kick returner.

The 2005 NFL draft netted the following standout players:

OLB Shawne Merriman - One of the NFL's most disruptive defenders who has just reclaimed the lead in sacks, despite missing 4 games on suspension

DE/DT Luis Castillo - In a 3-4 defense, his job is to take on blockers to free up the likes of Phillips and Merriman to make plays. But he is also explosive enough to make plays on his own

WR Vincent Jackson - A monstrous (6' 5", 241 lb) WR with speed and hands. Though currently a backup, Jackson showed big play capability this year, as well as excellent run-blocking

RB/KR Darren Sproles - A dangerous kick returner who unfortunately is missing this season due to injury

The 2006 NFL draft netted these standouts:

CB Antonio Cromartie - Despite being a rookie, he has been mostly solid as a nickel corner. He has also had some big returns as a kick returner. Cromartie has the greatest physical upside (size, reach, speed) of all Charger CBs.

OT Marcus McNeill - Took over the offensive left tackle position and has exceeded all expectations, excelling in both pass protection and run-blocking. Has the best size-speed combination of all Charger offensive linemen. All top scoring offenses have an elite-class left tackle and the Chargers are no exception.

QB Charlie Whitehurst - A controversial pick to some, but with the departure of Drew Brees and the ascendancy of Philip Rivers, its nice to have another talented young QB to develop in case anything happens to Rivers.

Key free agents brought in by Smith, via trade or straight signing:
WR Keenan McCardell - An accomplished veteran who is not only a key player in the offense but also a teacher to the younger wide receivers.

OT Roman Oben - A solid starter at left tackle in 2004 and 2005, until he was sidelined by injury. Now a solid backup to McNeill.

S Marlon McCree - A veteran playmaking safety who is now doing for the Chargers secondary what McCardell did for the WRs, provide leadership and share secrets of the trade, as well as make plays on the field as the starting free safety.
ILB Randall Godfrey - Solid run stopper
TE Brandon Manumaleuna - Gets plenty of playing time as the Chargers love to use 2-TE sets. He was acquired for his blocking and has excelled in that capacity. However, he has also provided an unexpected bonus as a receiver with his soft hands. His monstrous 288-lb girth makes him a load as both a blocker and receiver. He's a key component of the power run blocking package that makes Tomlinson unstoppable in goal line situations.
QB Billy Volek - Veteran backup to Rivers, who excelled as a Tennesee Titan in relief of injured QB Steve McNair

S Bhawoh Jue - One-time starter at FS who is a solid backup to McCree

CB/S Steve Gregory - Undrafted free agent excelling as a special teams tackler.
OLB Marques Harris - Helped fill in ably for Merriman during his suspension
nfl - Helped fill in for the injured Castillo and is a solid contributor to the DL rotation

You can see from the sheer number of contributing players listed that were acquired in just the past 3 years how AJ Smith transformed the San Diego Chargers from a bad team into a team that just won the AFC West and is expected by many to go to the Superbowl.

In conclusion, here's a photo sequence of AJ Smith enjoying Tomlinson's record-breaking 29th touchdown of the 2006 season, against the rival Broncos. I love this sequence because it shows AJ Smith the passionate football fan, not AJ Smith the hard-nosed businessman:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blind, Physically-Challenged Musician in Louisville Marching Band

Please check out this truly inspirational story about this incredibly talented young musician and his devoted dad. And yes, watch the video too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sight-Reading Tips for Guitarists

Sight-reading on the guitar is a challenge, and it never hurts to try different approaches to see what works for you. Here's an article:

Sight Reading by Steve Carter

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How the GR-300 Works

As you know, I am a huge Pat Metheny fan. His main guitar synthesizer is the venerable Roland GR-300, a pre-MIDI-era analog synth designed to be controlled by a special type of guitar. Check out this informative page on how the GR-300 works, as well as links to demo videos and a nice-sounding GR-300 emulation patch for the Roland VG-88.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ladanian Tomlinson sets 100 TD record

Last Sunday night during the San Diego Chargers' 35-27 victory over their nemesis, the Denver Broncos, Charger tailback Ladanian Tomlinson set a new NFL record for scoring 100 touchdowns in the fewest number of games (89), besting former record holders Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown.

In honor of this accomplishment, a Charger fan put together this highlight compilation video:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bear McCreary: Soundtrack Composer for Battlestar Galactica

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a huge fan of the 21st century version of the TV series, Battlestar Galactica, which is a re-imagining of the original series that ran in 1978. I have some fond childhood memories of the original, but the current version has far better production, writing, characters, etc.

Check out Create Digital Music's informative article on Bear McCreary!.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Great Philip Rivers moment

My favorite Philip Rivers moment in the Chargers latest victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was not one of his two touchdown passes, but his 15-yard run for a first down. The sheer passion which he displayed at the end of the run is indicative of the kind of leadership I like to see from the starting quarterback of the San Diego Chargers:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Michael Brecker-Pat Metheny Quartet excerpt

I may have mentioned this before, but my favorite overall jazz guitarist is Pat Metheny. The video clip below has an excellent example of Metheny showing how it's done:

Michael Brecker Pat Metheny Quartet : Timeline

Getting back into jazz guitar

I recently switched my role in our band from bassist/keyboardist to guitarist/keyboardist, thus opening up more possibilities for the dual guitar textures along the lines of bands such as Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, and Mono.

As a result of the switch, I've once again become interested in jazz guitar. Now, our band is not a jazz band nor is it a jazz-rock fusion band. However, I do have some fondness for that genre of music, and the study of jazz is one of the most comprehensive means to develop improvisational skills that can be applied to rock and other contemporary styles of music. I'm going the route of self-teaching at this point, as I have had lessons with teachers in the past - enough to know what I'm doing on the guitar (at least I like to think so), though I'm not ruling out studying with a master improvisor or composer/theorist in the future.

The books I am using at this time:

Robert Conti's Source Code Series - I actually bought this series a couple of years ago. Since I already have these books, I will primarily be studying jazz improvisation for guitar out of these. I'm obviously still on Vol. 1 (Jazz Lines) of the series. I agree with what has been presented so far, that in the study of jazz improvisation, it is more useful to focus on chord progressions rather than individual chords, as what seems to be the tendency in other jazz theory books. For example, if you are presented with the common ii-V-I progression, it is more useful to identify the major scale that those chords are built on, and improvise using that scale, instead of trying to memorize the tones of every chord individually.

Sheets Of Sound, Vol. I
- A relatively new guitar method book, though I think of it more as a reference book than a book for studying guitar, due to the sheer volume of information ($30 gets you 300 pages!). The author, Jack Zucker, has a jazz background, but the book is written for a general audience. The book presents numerous unusual guitar fingering ideas that feel awkward at first but can help the guitarist break out of ruts. The way the guitar is typically laid out too easily tempts guitar players into playing what is only in their comfort zone, and thus allowing their fingers to dictate the music, instead of the other way around. The sweep picking is similar to what was presented in Frank "King of Sweep Picking" Gambale's method books, though I have yet to see material that presents sweep-picked arpeggios in the context of jazz chord progressions, which Gambale's books do have.

Both authors promise super chops to the reader. However, what neither author can do for the guitar student is make sure that student has the physical setup to be able to develop "super chops", unless that student is already taking meeting either author at a physical location for lessons. By "physical setup", I mean an umbrella term for the student's physical approach to the instrument, in particular how the fretting hand is being used and how the pick is being manipulated (use of a pick is pretty much needed to maximize the material in these books). Physical setup is the area where a good teacher can really, really help. The fretting hand has to be positioned in a way that allows for horizontal stretches that are comfortable and without strain. The Sheets Of Sound book in particular has numerous fingerings that require stretches over 6 frets or more. The more you can stretch your fretting hand, the wider the variety of chords and melodies you can play. As for the use of the pick, you have to find the right balance between holding the pick solidly enough to play an articulate note, and holding the pick in a relaxed enough manner to facilitate high-speed sweep and alternate picking. In short, the ability to play as relaxed as possible, using only enough tension as necessary to produce the desired musical result, is what is needed to really develop "super chops". I cannot brag too much at this time about my own chops, though I can sweep-pick a few arpeggios and scale runs with reasonable articulation.

I also have other learning resources such as Jimmy Bruno's No-Nonsense Jazz Guitar DVD and a couple of Jamey Aebersold Playalong/Method Book/CD sets. However, my self-teaching will be focused on the aforementioned two titles - the Conti books for the jazz theory, and the Zucker book for generalized technique practice, to whet my appetite for more "modern" style lines, as exemplified by the likes of Scott Henderson, Eric Johnson and Michael Brecker, than what is probably in Conti's books.

I'll try to report my progress. I hope to get around to installing Band In A Box soon to start practicing improvising, which is a different activity than practicing guitar technique and studying theory.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1985 Bears vs. 2004 Chargers

Yes, I am a fan of the San Diego Chargers. I became a fan during the Air Coryell days, then stopped following NFL football for a few years, then started following the team again in the 1994 season when they made their first Superbowl appearance, not as the offensive juggernaut I remembered from Air Coryell, but as a scrappy team that made it to the Big Dance via a combination of sheer will and luck (LOTS of luck). It was a shame they got blown out by the finest 49ers team of the decade, but at least they made it.

I then suffered through years of bad Charger football as then-General Manager Bobby Beathard methodically dismantled the team with a relentless barrage of bad draft-day decisions, bad free agent signings, and bad coaching hires. His crowning achievement was undoubtedly the drafting of QB Ryan Leaf and the hires of Kevin Gilbride, then Mike Riley to coach the team.

Current GM AJ Smith has done a fantastic job of reviving a franchise that was once a laughingstock of the NFL. He's made his share of mistakes, but they are far outweighed by his personnel decisions. The 2004 Charger team went 12-4 and made the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. It was in 2004 that the Chargers were once again recognized as high-powered offensive team, due to the emergence of explosive tight end Antonio Gates (who went on to set the touchdown record for TEs with 13 TDs) and the vastly improved efficiency of quarterback Drew Brees, to complement the already established star running back Ladanian Tomlinson. Their run defense was restored under new defensive coordinator Wade Philip's 3-4 system.

The 2006 Chargers may well be an even better team, with an improved pass rush and secondary, thanks to the addition of safety Marlon McCree and the drafting of talented cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who plays in nickel packages. They currently are ranked #1 against the pass (a longtime weakness in years past) and #2 overall in defense. The offensive line has benefitted from the addition of Marcus McNeill, who is an inexperienced rookie at left tackle but with tremendous upside. Backup RB Michael Turner has seen increased playing time, which saves some wear and tear on Tomlinson and keeps the ground game humming.

The 1985 Bears are still thought to have the finest defensive unit in the history of the NFL. That team also had the great running back Walter Payton.

A fun website called What If Sports is available for fans who want to try fantasy matchups, such as the 1985 Bears vs. the 2004 Chargers. Here are the game results, with full play-by-play:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sequencer for Extended Just Intonation Tunings

I haven't been able to devote any time to exploring microtonal music due to my involvement with our band but I still try to follow the microtonal music-making world. Here is a free sequencer for making music with just intonation.

In the author's own words (posted to the Yahoo MakeMicroMusic group):

I wrote a program that sequences JI, with a common set of intervals
that follow the mouse; if you hit T while one of these intervals is
up, that interval becomes 1/1 and the other notes change to show their
relationship to it. So it is possible to sequence a melody or
modulate or borrow chords from other tonalities without doing

The program runs in the Pure Data programming environment. The
simplest way to set it up is to download pd-extended from

My sequencer program:

You have to start Pure Data (PD-extended) and make sure your audio is
set up, then open "JI.pd" from my folder. Some instructions are
below. I used this program to write the JI sonata at

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Another favorite Boondocks episode

"A Date With The Health Inspector" - one of the funniest episodes in the series, including a tribute to Pulp Fiction. Featuring Charlie Murphy as Ed Wuncler III and Samuel Jackson as Gin Rummy. I can't wait to see the uncut version on DVD!

Part 1

Part 2

One of my favorite Boondocks TV episodes

is "Riley Wuz Here". While the comic strip was more focused on Riley's revolutionary-in-training brother, Huey, the TV show places more emphasis on Riley, because he is by far the funnier of the two characters. This episode shows a more serious side to Riley, and has a touching ending.

Most of this episode was uploaded to YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

The art teacher appears to be inspired by Bob Ross, of the Joy Of Painting fame.

As of today, the Boondocks First Season DVDs are the #3 top seller at Amazon. I guess this helps explain why between myself and several coworkers, we have found that five area Target stores were ALL sold out of these DVDs. I plan to get my own copy when I return from vacation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Blog links added (Choro Music, Physical Strategies)

Choro is one of my new favorite Brazilian music styles, as mentioned earlier. I'm happy to see a blog devoted to this wonderful art form. Thank you, Durium!

Physical Strategies is a new blog started by martial artist and fitness trainer Tom Furman. Tom has an infectious enthusiasm for the martial arts and has an interesting perspective on training, as a theater worker with a highly irregular schedule.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

This is your brain on music

Fascinating article on what parts of the brain are stimulated by different activities related to music (hearing vs. imagining vs. emotionally reacting vs. etc.).

My one concern with this article is that it might discourage some adults from taking up a musical instrument.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Boondocks Highlight Reel

The Boondocks (on Adult Swim) is one of those shows you either love or hate, depending on which offends you more and which offends you less. Kind of like Mind of Mencia and Chappelle's Show.

I love this show, even if the satire can be on the harsh side. Here's a 10-minute highlight reel that someone compiled, including the great kung fu fight scene between Huey and Riley.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Intriguing new Musical Toys from Blue Man Group

Toys occupy an honored place in the art of making music, particularly at the fringes. One of my fondest toys-and-music memories is watching a UCSD music professor (who taught a Rock Guitar class) take a "solo" on a toy guitar, lay it on the floor, douse it with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze as it continued to play its preprogrammed rock guitar riffs.

I can't wait to get my hands on these new toys from Blue Man Group. Check out the article at Music Thing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mogwai show available as free download

I just had the pleasure of once again seeing a live performance by the group Mogwai, one of the leading lights of the genre known as post-rock. I was initially drawn to Mogwai when I was listening to the eclectic Internet radio station, which tended to play their most introspective and prettiest songs.

I recently began playing in a band. When people ask what we sound like, I tell them Mogwai is a major influence. Unfortunately, few are familiar with this band. Thanks to NPR's quick turnaround, I can now point them to NPR's Mogwai in Concert page, where they can, free of charge, either listen to this live concert recording by streaming audio or download an MP3 file of the concert.

I've been to three Mogwai shows and this was the best so far. They featured more of their shorter, prettier songs, but mixed in enough intensity in their song selection to achieve good balance in their overall presentation. They really pushed the envelope at the end of their encore, blasting the audience with an aural assault that the likes of Merzbow and Whitehouse would be pround of.

Rockin' live version of Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group

Check out this video.

Edgar Winter is even more amazing in this video than on the version you may have heard a lot on classic rock radio. He positively rocks his brains out on synthesizers, sax, and drums - all on the same song. I love the crazy ending!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A simple pulse test to monitor recovery - by Steve Maxwell

On the Dragondoor forum, noted BJJ and fitness expert Steve Maxwell offered this nugget:

Each morning for two weeks, take your pulse in bed upon waking. I use a hand held moniter that reads my pulse form my finger tips. I find that it is more accurate than counting from palpating my carotid artery. If you do use a manuel reading, take it for at least thirty seconds to reduce errors. Take three readings. At the end of the two weeks, you have your average pulse reading. Each morning, take a reading. If your pulse is more than 4 beats above your average, it means that you are not completely recovered and should take an easy workout that day. If the pulse is more than 4 beats above, rest completely.

This URL to his post is

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Three Documentary Films about Brazil and Music

I'm not much of a movie reviewer. Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on three movies I viewed recently:


A moving tribute to choro, a musical genre that predates better known Brazilian genres such as samba and bossa nova, and has a sound that is very distinct, compared to those other genres. Choro is a style that favors improvisation, though some choro hits have vocals. Some for the sake of comparison describe choro as the Brazilian equivalent of New Orleans jazz. For some odd reason, I think of Argentinian Tango too. I was captivated by this music and picked up the excellent New Old Music an album of choro classics recently recorded by Modern Traditions Ensemble.

This Is Bossa Nova: The History and Stories

A tribute to bossa nova, focusing on the musings and anecdotes of legendary songwriters Roberto Menescal and Carlos Lyra. One highlight of the film was Menescal explaining why bossa nova is such a soft style of music. The bossa nova musicians lived in thin-walled apartments, so they were forced to play softly.

Favela Rising

This is the story of Anderson Sa, a founder of Afro Reggae, an organization dedicated to promoting music and dance to at-risk youth in the favelas, the slums of Rio De Janeiro. Anderson says he was a drug dealer until his brother was killed during the infamous 1993 massacre in his home favela, Vigario Geral, in which corrupt police killed 21 favela residents. Instead of seeking revenge, Anderson co-founded Grupo Cultural Afro Reggae. Favela Rising was my favorite of the three, due to the powerful emotional content.

The contrast between the bird's eye view of Rio De Janeiro at end of This Is Bossa Nova and a very similar view of the same city at beginning of Favela Rising is striking. The former is very much like a postcard, whereas the latter is noticeably darker and goes on to show the favelas, which are not shown at all in the former.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Update on Low Back Recovery, Training

I finished the 12-week Level 1 Course in Iyengar Yoga. This course, in combination with my practice of Circular Strength Training (CST) and my body's natural healing process produced tangible results. My low back pain is no longer constant and only manifests itself if I sit or stand without moving for extended periods of time. Even when I sit all day at work, the low back irritation that I experience has been dramatically reduced.

I decided not to continue Yoga study because the softball season just started and I feel the practice of CST as a physical training approach will be sufficient for continued recovery.

CST encompasses a vast array of exercises and exercise programs. One core program of my practice is Intu-Flow™. In the words of CST creator Scott Sonnon:

Intu-Flow™ - a combination of the phrase "Intuitive Flow" - refers to the fact that our bodymind knows precisely what it needs for pain-free health and longevity. Intu-Flow™, as a result, is an incrementally progressive system of dynamic joint mobility exercise to release stored tension and break up calcium deposits, connective tissue adhesions and fascial density. Getting Intu-Flow™ restores energy by washing our entire matrix of connective tissue in nutrition and lubrication, which in turn vitalizes one's health, removes pain, and promotes longevity, because "we are as old as our connective tissue."

Intu-Flow also introduces the Quad Hop, Spinal Rock, and breathing/vibration drills. The Spinal Rock in particular has been a major part of my back recovery training. The bonus Extension program and Mini-Clubs that come with the Intu-Flow package are a gentle introduction to weighted resistance training with Clubbells.

Another CST program I have been following is the Swipe Density Program as detailed int the book CST Core Cadre Curriculum. The Swipe is a Clubbell exercise that has a good track record of fixing backs and it definitely seems to be working great for me. The book also has instruction on other Clubbell combination routines, but the Swipe has been my main focus.

Yes, I just became an RMax affiliate. Virtually all my workouts are from the RMax canon, so why not? I've tried various physical training methods and equipment, but getting hurt changed my perspective. CST has been my main training approach in my recovery from my injuries. It's worked great for me and I intend to stick to what works. Another reason I'm sticking to CST is that it is a best fit for my personal fitness goals. The primary goal is health. The secondary goals are performance goals - not absolutely necessary for my life or my chosen "sport" of music, but are goals which will help me focus my training: these included replicating breakdancers' feats in which the dancer's body is entirely supported on his/her arms and learning all the Clubbell combination routines.

People work out for various reasons, whether that reason happens to be bigger muscles, fat loss, better performance at a particular sport, and so on. It seems like a lot of people sacrifice their health for these goals. It also seems like most of us equate big muscles or superior sport performance with great health, which isn't necessarily so. Stories abound of athletes, even at the elite level, sacrificing their health for performance at their sport. CST may be unique in that it is a system that makes your health the highest priority.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mobile Music: Tracker for Nintendo DS, DS Homebrew Music Roundup -

Yet another reason for a musician to by a Nintendo DS!

This article on
announces a new homebrew music composition tool for the Nintendo DS.

I'm still waiting for the Nintendo DS Lite to come out, as opposed to the current Nintendo DS, on account of the reportedly brighter screen.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I finally put some of my own music online

I was recently talked into creating a MySpace page. It looks like a convenient place to share music, in that listeners are not required to register and a player is built-in, and the MySpace site is very, very popular.

The two songs:

16-Tone Tag - Laptop improvisation using the following software: Numerology, FM7, Quicktime Instruments (for the cheesy drums at the end). Performed at Open Minijax, recorded and mastered by Derek Morton.

The Call Of The Nafs - Improvisation on kemancheh and Cocolase Device. Many thanks to Peter Blasser, the brilliant electronic instrument designer and musician, for making my Cocolase and the piezo pickup taped to my kemanceh.

Oh, and the MySpace page is here

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good "Introduction To Synthesis" thread

If you ever wanted to get into synthesis as a musician, this thread on Harmony Central is as good a place as any to start.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Friday, March 03, 2006

Time to Shine for Autistic Boy

Great story on this news video clip about an autistic boy who is given a chance to play for his basketball team on the last day of the season. Includes footage from his game!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Selective Tension Breathing Technique by Scott Sonnon

The article Selective Tension Breathing Technique
, by Scott Sonnon, explains how one applies Selective Tension in conjunction with Performance Breathing while practicing exercises from Scott's Circular Strength Training (CST) system.

A key quality of CST as opposed to other exercise methodologies is Performance Breathing and how it works along with the movements. One learns how to be breathed by the movement instead of forcing the breath and generating unnecessary tension - this really comes into play during sports performance, martial arts, and other movements outside of the gym. Selective Tension is how one is able to perform movements that require effort without locking up the entire body with full-body tension, which is rarely needed in life aside from a max effort barbell lift or holding a strenous posture on the gymnastic rings.

Note the article was published in 2004. Since that time, Trinity Breathing exercises have been included in a more recent RMAX product entitled Intu-Flow. I highly recommend Intu-Flow as the starter program for CST.

New link added - Edge

From the About Edge page:

Edge Foundation, Inc., was established in 1988 as an outgrowth of a group known as The Reality Club. Its informal membership includes of some of the most interesting minds in the world.

The mandate of Edge Foundation is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society. Edge Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit private operating foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

From the About The Reality Club page:

In January, 1997, The Reality Club has now migrated to the Internet on Edge. Here you will find a number of today's sharpest minds taking their ideas into the bull ring knowing they will be challenged. The ethic is thinking smart vs. the anesthesiology of wisdom.

Through the years, The Reality Club has had a simple criterion for choosing speakers. We look for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. A few Reality Club speakers and/or Edge presenters are bestselling authors or are famous in the mass culture. Most are not. Rather, we encourage work on the cutting edge of the culture, and the investigation of ideas that have not been generally exposed. We are interested in "thinking smart;" we are not interested in the anesthesiology of "wisdom." The motto of the Club is "to arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves."

Whether you agree or disagree, Edge has a lot of intellectually stimulating reading material. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Electrotap Hemisphere Speaker

I might eventually get the Hemisphere by Electrotap instead of a conventional speaker cabinet for my cello and bass. The frequency response goes down to 60Hz, which might be a restrictive for those low notes on the low B string of my bass, but a subwoofer could be added if necessary. The main appeal of this alternative speaker system is that it more closely approximates the sonic behavior of acoustic instruments, in that it radiates sounds in all directions instead of just one.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Some tips on using a Cocolase

On this thread, "greenseaenvelope" posted some cool ideas for playing a Cocolase. Here's an excerpt:

It is great that you are going to pick it up yourself and figure out how to use it in the way your are planning on using it (I'm on the west coast) because the imputs are the most sensitive thing on the instrument, I am finding. He made their impedance such that you can play through the device using a piezo mike without preamps (I use aux loops so I don't need this, but that's cool). But that makes it so that it picks up radio signals really easily, particularly since I want to use one of the imputs as a "probe", unclipping and reclipping an allegator-1/4" and using my fingers and palms to connect the modulation imputs through my bodies electrical field. You can make absolutely insane sounds by putting all your fingers inside the sidrassi and then send each loop its own independant intermodulated signals for flip, skip, and sample rate/loop length.

Another easy one is putting your palm down on one of the modulation bar since all the big brassos are modulation imputs to the main osc so you connect all the petals on one side together.

Is is VERY important to note that sample rate and loop length seem to be directly related, with the longest loops being interesting digital mud and only the ones that are about 1-30 seconds (or even less) are really all that discernable as the original signal. But the cool thing about this is that you can send a insane mix of 8oscs in control rate to modulate this sample rate and it does the math perfectly. (Edit: then again, how would I know if it does the math perfectly? It just sounds completely bonkers).

Doing more subtle things I found you could send a simple pretty loop of your singer's voice or something and attach just one of the sidrassi petals to flip or skip and set a nice long IP time, sit down and wait five minutes, and gradually the loop will twist and warp into something totally unrecognisable, but still clearly a mangled low fi recording of a melodic womans voice.

When you get it we'll have to do a thread showing ours off and comparing our experiences.

And with the radio thing: Peter replied immediately to my request for help and the answer may be that I wil have to install some resisters near the imputs, but I am investigating this later today. No big deal, since I plan on using my mixer's preamps to manage the audio signals going through the cocolase anyways.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The greatest electric guitarist you never heard of

the late Danny Gatton, in this vide clip, can be seen taking a swig from a beer bottle, using the bottle (still with beer inside) as a slide on his guitar, then playing his guitar with his hand inside a towel (I'm guessing to wipe spilled beer off the neck and still play at the same time).

Friday, February 03, 2006

Mark Tilden - Robosapien's Inventor :: Reviews and Ratings Network

I just read an entertaining interview with Mark Tilden. I got the link off of, which says:

If you've ever wondered what goes on in the mind of Mark Tilden, creator of Robosapien and its mechanical brethren, you'll love this interview at YouReview. Tilden sounds off on the Robosapien mods ("best potential hacks are installing stereo camera transmitters in the head"), life as an expat robot-maker in Hong Kong ("it's just a good thing I liked the movie Blade Runner so much") and what's next for WowWee ("Actually it's all top secret, but it'll be good. Promise.") A great look at the man who made robots fun again (though he leaves out his plans for inevitable world domination).

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

the physical genius

Check out this compelling article on physical genius.

What do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a brain surgeon named Charlie Wilson have in common?

A choice excerpt:

If you think of physical genius as a pyramid, with, at the bottom, the raw components of coordination, and, above that, the practice that perfects those particular movements, then this faculty of imagination is the top layer.

Another choice excerpt:

Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, his longtime rival, did not differ so much in their athletic ability or in how obsessively they practiced. The difference between them is that Jordan could always generate a million different scenarios by which his team could win, some of which were chunks stored in long-term memory, others of which were flights of fancy that came to him, figuratively and literally, in midair.

Bodyweight Conditioning progress and questions from an adventure racer (Coach Sommer?): Kettlebells, Strength, Fitness, Martial Arts

I had posted this before but lost it within my own blog... This was a post from an adventure racer to the Dragondoor forum reporting results from 3 months of following Coach Sommer's program for the planche and front lever and some questions for modifying his training program. Coach Sommer's reply is also very informative

Friday, January 27, 2006

German engineering-v-Arab technology - Google Video

Volkswagon's new Polo commercial pits a suicide bomber vs. a Polo....

Amazing use of choir for car commercial

The Honda (UK) - Civic site currently has a commercial that uses a choir and no other instrumentation for all the sound effects. Check it out!

Lindsay Mac - Singer, Songwriter, Cellist

Lindsay Mac - Singer, Songwriter, Cellist

I read about Lindsay Mac on the NAMM Oddities report. She is a singer/cellist who straps on her cello like a guitar. I like what I've heard of her songwriting so far.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Glosoli video and background

Glosoli is a very pretty song by Sigur Ros. This post to the Harmony Central forums has links to a cute video for this song, and some photos and description of the setting for the video.

"Mike51" gives you a choice between RealAudio, Windows Media, and Quicktime formats for the video.

How to make music with Electroplankton: 101 - DS Fanboy

How to make music with Electroplankton: 101 - DS Fanboy

I still have a Game Boy Color, with the Nanoloop and Little Sound DJ music-making software cartridges for it. So when I heard about Electroplankton, I became more interested in the latest incarnation of Nintendo's portable video game system.

This is the first serious article I've seen on making music with Electroplankton. No doubt I will incorporate some of the advice presented if and when I finally pick up a Nintendo DS.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Digital Television, Part 1: Making Sense of it all - Engadget

I admit it. I'm behind the times when it comes to digital television and understanding all the options and developments out there. Engadget has a nice guide for those such as myself who want to catch up.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My first Iyengar style Yoga class

If you have been reading this blog, you may be aware I'm recovering from a lower back injury originally caused by a botched deadlift attempt in April of last year. I further aggravated the injury with high-load training with kettlebells, Power Wheel, etc. before the back was truly ready.

Yoga is often recommended as a solution for low-back problems, so I started looking into it. Last night, I took an introductory class at one of the Unity Woods Yoga studios. I had tried a couple of Yoga classes here and there but this was the first that was explicitly advertised as an Iyengar style class. I have already forgotten many details, but I do remember the following:

- Child pose
- Triangle pose
- Low back/hamstring stretch with fingertips against a wall, as preparation for a forward bending pose (which was demonstrated by the instructor but not taught to us)
- Easy pose
- Hero pose
- Tree pose
- Warrior pose
- Mountain pose

We finished by wrapping straps around our thighs and lying down, face up with our legs against the wall. This was an interesting choice of finishing pose that I hadn't seen before.

I like the Iyengar approach, as represented by Unity Woods, for its emphasis on alignment and use of devices such as blocks, blankets, ropes, etc. to relieve pain and/or compensate for range-of-motion limitations. Also, their winter session classes had not yet begun whereas those of the other studio I was looking already started last week.

The most important result was my back was painless at the end of class.

So, I'll start taking the Level 1 Iyengar class next week and update my logs as needed

Ricci Adams'

Ricci Adams' looks like a useful online music theory reference.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Adding Spiral 'Internal' Power to the Pushup

This RMAX forum post describes the Screwing Pushup and a suggestion progression through four versions that vary in diffulty and sophistication. Some individuals have reported developing the ability to do a strict 1-arm pushup by practicing Screwing Pushups.

Screwing Pushups may undoubtedly be useful for developing power for martial arts hand strikes. I suspect the power developed by this type of movement may also be useful for sportive activities as well. I felt a bit of a load on my obliques from the Screwing Squat Pushup and anticipate even more of a load in the other variations. In any case, it may be worth practicing for the sheer challenge and enjoyment of the movement itself.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How to get a world-class breakdancer's strength, balance, and flexibility

This now-famous breakdance video clip by B-Boy Junior inspired Scott Sonnon towards a new direction in his physical training. This video as well as Sonnon's approach also inspired me to work towards similar goals.

This article by Scott covers the fundamentals of Scott's initial approach. Please note his warning that the article does not present a complete program - it is intended to be used as a starting point or template on which one can base one's own program.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

408 lbs vs. 233 lbs.

408 lbs fighter vs. 233 lbs. Fedor

Fedor Emilienko could well be the world's greatest MMA fighter in the heavyweight class. The above link is to his fight with a 408lb. fighter. It's shocking how quickly Fedor dispatches his opponent despite the obvious size disparity. Here's a pic of Fedor training:

Friday, January 06, 2006

Increasing sensitivity to high frequencies

Lately I have noticed my ears are more easily irritated by high frequencies. I started to notice this just before Christmas when I tried out my brand-new violin. When I took it to the music shop, I was advised to try Thomastik Dominant strings, as they are said to have a mellower tone. I bought the Dominants and replaced the upper 2 strings on my violin. After I did that I was not as irritated by the sound of those high A and E strings and felt fine playing along with my Aunt's church choir during their caroling sessions.

However, the sound of those two high strings began to hurt again just before New Year's Eve. Fortunately, I brought my earplugs to the all night jam session in which I participated, as the processed sounds of electric violins and amplified lap steel guitar put out plenty of high frequencies that were threatening to my ears.

Last night, even the high string of my kemancheh produced the nasty sensation in my ear that usually attends a high-frequency assault. Also, I tested the high notes of my cheap digital piano and they too irritated me. Fortunately, the viola proved to not be irritating at all to my ears.

So what to do?

The very first thing I started to do today was take a vacation from listening to music via headphones. No more iTunes, no more iPod. We are periodically warned of the dangers to our ears imposed by headphone-delivered music. I've certainly done more than my fair share. After about a few days, I'm going to see if there is any improvement in the response of my ears to my violin or kemancheh. If there isn't any, I'll have to sell them both - there is no point in torturing myself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

john gill's website

john gill's website looks mostly dedicated to the sport of climbing, but has a lot of great info on gymnastics and historical feats of bodyweight strength.

YRG is Yoga for Regular Guys

I initially chuckled when I first heard about the Yoga for Regular Guys program by professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. After learning that professional wrestling matches are fake (in that everything is scripted out, as opposed to a real contest) and years of watching UFC and Pride fights, I find it hard to take pro wrestlers seriously.

However, I'm hearing that Page's YRG may actually be worth checking out. Lots of regular guys are turned off by yoga due to certain stereotypes we associate with it, such as new age music and chanting. Yoga recast in a more guy-friendly image might be the answer...