Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great night of great music

Well, tonight was a lot of fun!  My girlfriend treated me and her cousin to an evening at the Birchmere, a DC area music club that's been around since 1966, and has at one time or another featured a huge range of great music.  Tonight we saw the Wailin Jennys, a female folk/"new grass" trio that has been featured on Prairie Home Companion a few times.  Amazing harmonies and solid instrumental work coupled with great songwriting and lovely renditions of traditional pieces and you end up with a delightful evening.

A few things stood out for me, aside from the overall excellent quality of the performances.  One was a truly beautiful rendition of "Your Long Journey", a great song by Doc and Rosa Lee Watson... it's the kinda song that just gets you where you live, and the Jennys really sang it well tonight.  Another cover they performed earlier in the evening was an Emmylou Harris tune, "Deeper Well".  About halfway through that one, my girlfriend leaned over to me and indicated she wasn't that crazy about it... which I found interesting on a couple of counts.  First, because I had just been thinking "there's something about the viola player's style that's vaguely reminiscent of David Cross in the old King Crimson days" (a comparison which might seem deeply weird to some)... and second because it seemed subtly different from the other songs this evening.  How so?  Well, maybe I'm off base here, and I don't claim to be a musical expert, but it seemed as if the instrumental work in all the other tunes really didn't call attention to itself, but supported the gorgeous vocals of the trio, while the viola part in "Deeper Well" seemed too... well, forward is the word that springs to mind.  It wasn't bad, not at all... it just called attention to itself in a way none of the other instrumental work did.

One other thing that struck me tonight.... Over the many years I worked as a theatre technician and lighting designer, people often asked if I had a hard time watching live performances without internally critiquing the lighting and scenery.  And I was always able to answer, totally honestly, that no, I never really did that while watching shows I didn't work on.  Well, since I've left the business, that no longer seems to be true, and tonight was no exception.  It's not that I sat the whole evening picking apart the lighting... far from it.  But I did find myself from time to time thinking "if they only had a little top or backlight here..." or "why on earth did they put a light cue THERE?"  Knowing the business as I do, I know the challenges and limitations, and I understand why things aren't always as "artful" as I might like.... but now and again I thought "if I were lighting this..."  Kinda funny, and it in no way detracted from a wonderful night.

All in all a great evening.  I don't get out for live music very often, but when I do I really enjoy it a great deal.  Good music, good company, and good food... what more could one ask for?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Progress on V-O Mixte

Well, it's been slow going on building up the Velo Orange Mixte for my girlfriend.  I've been a bit busy with adjusting to being a business owner, for one thing.  And while the bike shop season hasn't really "hit" yet, we've been teased with just enough spring-like weather to ramp up the demands on the service area, so I've been busy with that too.

But I did manage to get some work done the other evening.  Specifically, I prepared the frame and fork for headset installation, then installed the headset and fork.

For those that may not know, the headset is the bearing assembly that allows the fork to turn smoothly. It's important that the head tube (the part of the frame the headset fits into) have nice, smooth, clean, round bores into which the headset is pressed.  In addition, the top and bottom "faces" of the head tube need to be parallel to each other and have a nice flat surface to them.  A bit of time and care with the proper tools, and all is good.  Similar work generally has to be done to the fork to prepare it as well.

Once the frame and fork have been prepared, the headset simply gets pressed into place, using a special tool that applies a good amount of force while helping assure alignment as it presses the pieces in. It's entirely possible to do it using homemade solutions, but I have the benefit of a well equipped bike shop at my disposal!

The final step to the process is sliding the fork into the headtube, through the headset cups, then installing the adjustable cup and lock nut on top.  Final adjustment will happen later when the bike is just about complete.

I chose a Velo Orange Grand Cru headset, which looks spiffy and has sealed, cartridge bearings, which hold up well and make for easy servicing down the road.

Meanwhile, the front wheel with Shimano Dynohub is ready to go, and the rear wheel with Shimano Nexus 8 speed internally geared hub is awaiting final tensioning and truing.  Most of the rest of the parts have been gathered, and will be addressed as we proceed.

More photos are here:

Velo Orange Mixte 3-6-2011