Jun 152012
 

Titanium Sporkestra is no more. I won’t go into too much detail about how/why The Sporkestra met its demise, mainly because it was a bit of a surprise to me. It kind of reminded me of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar tragedy. It’s sad to have the band gone, but also a bit of a relief to have my summer weekends back.

There are several bands forming from the ashes of the Sporkestra, but I haven’t decided if/which band I should jump on board with. I’m leaning more towards taking the summer off to do some hiking, biking, and scrambling.

Mar 312012
 

Honk! TX
Honk TX is over; it again was a blast. It seems like we played almost nonstop in between sleeping and eating. There wasn’t much free time to go explore the city or do much else other than those three aforementioned activities. Sporkestra stayed at a metal shop in East Austin, with mattresses spread out on the floor between lathes and welders and only one bathroom. I, however, have an acquaintance named George who happens to live about three blocks from this hideout. George had an extra bed available in his cute little accessory dwelling shack he built. Each night I would whisk myself to George’s sanctuary to sleep in a comfortable bed and use his outdoor sink with a squirter thing as a shower.

Just like last year, almost the entire sporkestra was provided with a free bike to use during Honk! This was great, we just rented one van for the gear and all rode our bikes to the various gigs. We were like a biker gang marauding around Austin, except on bicycles. Austin is a great city to bike around; roads with wide shoulders and bike lanes, few hills, a simple street grid that allows a bicyclist to completely avoid the busy arterials, some bicycle-only improvements at key locations like freeway interchanges, and of course the balmy weather (at least this time of year, August may be a different story).

It was fun re-connecting with the street band community. Since I have been to quite a number of Honks in these past few years, I saw a lot of familiar faces and familiar instruments, and got to know some new people. Two other people had Eb sousaphones very similar to mine in vintage and construction, but each were stamped with different brand names. One was a King, the other was a Wurlitzer, while mine is a Martin. There is some overlap in the honk bands’ repertoire, so there were several songs that we were able to play together with other bands. In particular, we played several songs with Environmental Encroachment from Chicago. It was interesting to see other sousaphone players’ interpretation and embellishment of the bass lines of these tunes.

I wrote most of this while unexpectedly stuck in the Austin Airport for 5 hours. The gear van went to shuttle some people with earlier flights to the airport, so I thought I would get a head start and take my Sousaphone in its pallet case and check it into baggage early and then come back to the Airport later via bus. Unfortunately my plans were thwarted by the fact that the Alaska Airlines ticket counter doesn’t open until 3:00pm. I guess that kind of makes sense since they only have one daily flight to Austin, but grrrrr, that means that I’m now stuck here babysitting my sousa; the TSA agents wandering around the airport are gazing at it suspiciously, no doubt evaluating whether I might bust open the case and do something evil with the contents.

While I was away, my office got moved to a new cube, all of 30’ away from my old cube. Therefore I had to unpack everything as soon as I returned to work on Tuesday, and I was still kind of in a daze from flying the day before. However, the number crunching exercise that I worked on during the flights went well. I finished a first draft of the dwell time formulas that I described in my previous post. (Charts available upon request)

Now it’s 5 days since I returned from the tropics, and I have a bad cold. At least that has let me get caught up on my blog on a Saturday night…

Mar 222012
 

Today I am leaving for Austin, TX for this year’s installment of Honk! TX. Last year I had a blast down there and I’m looking forward to another weekend of performing in the Lone Star State. I am also looking forward to the 85 degree weather.

That’s all for now. I’m currently waiting for my flight to depart and a have a laptop with a copy of an entire service change worth of data from Metro’s Automated Passenger Counter data (about 1.2 gigs of data). My tedious in-flight mission is to use this data to predict increased dwell time at all downtown bus stops after the ride free area goes away and everyone will have to board through the front door and pay a fare.

Feb 282012
 

Titanium Sporkestra is going to Austin again this year for Honk! TX. We’re trying to raise funds through a couple of different methods:

  1. We are collecting donations through IndieGoGo, a fundraising site similar to Kickstarter, which we used last year. Check it out
  2. We’re having a Big Fucking Party this weekend, should be a hoot.
  3. We’re putting the finishing touches on a new CD release. If you are interested in a copy, I can hook you up.

Overweight baggage fees have gone up this year, it now costs $50 each way to ship my sousa!

Sep 292011
 

I’m heading to Boston for Honk Fest! 2011. This is the original Honk Fest that started them all. I have never been to Boston before, so I am excited to see a new city and play with new bands, not to mention geeking out over their rapid transit system.

I leave on a red eye tonight and arrive in boston at 6:30 tomorrow morning. I’m hoping to sleep the whole way there…

May 122011
 

This weekend is Honk! Fest West, an convergence of street bands from all over North America. My band, Titanium Sporkestra, is playing at the following space time coordinates:

  1. Friday, 8:00pm in Georgetown at Airport Way @ 12th Ave S
  2. Saturday, 4:00pm at Gasworks Park
  3. Sunday, ~2:30pm at the EMP Sky Church

Here are direct links to the full festival schedules

Mar 092011
 

Today I am leaving for Austin, TX to play with Titanium Sporkestra at Honk Fest TX.
This was the first time that I have needed to ship my sousa on an airplane, so I spent the last few weeks building and perfecting a case for my sousaphone. I have always felt that the standard sousaphone cases were overly-clunky and designed to be the most difficult to carry, plus they are expensive. There are some nice molded plastic ones with wheels, but those are even more expensive. I wanted something better.

Based on my previous success with the use of pallets as a building material, I decided to visit my favorite pallet source again and procure a couple for this purpose. I cut the pallets into the rough dimensions that I would need, then set the sousa inside and made specific cuts to accomodate the odd shape. The width of the pallet and location of the cross pieces turned out to be almost perfect for this purpose.

The two pallet pieces basically sandwich together forming a top and bottom piece. I made notches and attached small pieces of scrap wood so that the top and bottom pieces would interlock together. I attached a metal latch at each of the 4 corners of the case to lock down the two pieces. With this, the basic form of the case was complete, but there were still the finishing touches to add.

The most important addition was the wheels. When we bought our house a few years ago, it came with a box of junk that included a pair of small 6″ diameter wheels with metal spokes and solid rubber “tires.” I have no idea where these wheels came from originally, but they seemed ideal for my case. I took them to Stoneway Hardware, and figured out an attachment method from Stoneway’s vast collection of nuts, bolts, and fasteners. I attached the wheels near one of the corners, so that the case could be pushed around like a wheelbarrow. The wheels are also recessed so that they are mostly within dead space within the case and only protrude out a few inches.

Building on the wheelbarrow idea, I next fashioned a removable handle out of a scrap copper pipe piece leftover from the water heater project. The pipe already had a 3/4″ threaded piece on the end, and in my box of random plumbing stuff I had a 3/4″ female piece that I could screw onto the pallet boards. I mounted the handle at exactly the perfect height where I could hold my arms at rest position while grabbing the handle and the case would be perfectly level. I also mounted it in line with the center of gravity so that the case will stay relatively balanced between the wheels while being pushed. I installed some clips just inside the case for stowing the removable part of the handle when not in use.

From the Goodwill Outlet (“The Bins”) I obtained a black velvet dress. Although the dress actually fit me pretty well, I cut it up and stapled the material to the inside of the bottom of the case to provide a soft surface that the front of the bell piece would rest against. To protect the top of the sousa, I just drape a blanket over it and tuck it underneath, and stuff a towel between the main and bell sections of the sousa so that they don’t clank together. This is an area for improvement; the blanket tends to get untucked and disheveled while in transit.

Finally, I attached a small fanny pack, also a goodwill score, to the inside of the case in a corner that was otherwise dead space. This is where my mouthpiece, neck piece, and other important accessories go.

The case plus sousa weighs in at about 70 pounds, probably about 15 pounds heavier than a standard case would be. However, it rolls like a dream, able to negotiate the poorly-maintained sidewalks in our neighborhood with ease. Also, since it is a pallet with the gaps still left between the boards, you can grab the case at almost any point to get a good grip on it. Another area for future improvement is to spend some quality time with the orbital sander to reduce the incidence of splinters.

image

Today the case went on its maiden voyage. This morning I rolled it through the pouring rain to the light rail station, and then negotiated it into the wheelchair securement area on the next arriving train. (I believe that playing a large instrument qualifies me as disabled and thus am allowed use of the wheelchair space.) At the airport, I wheeled the sousa over to the Southwest Airlines ticket counter and stowed the handle. The agents first looked at my “contraption” (yes, that is the word they used) with suspicion, then ascertained that it was a musical instrument, charged me a $50 overweight fee, made me sign two different damage waivers, and I had to take it to the TSA counter myself and open it for them to check for explosives. After that it was at the mercy of the baggage handlers.

I had a 2-hour layover in Phoenix and then on to Austin. The sousa was there faithfully waiting in the oversize baggage area when I arrived in Austin. I haven’t yet opened it for a full inspection, but it appears that it it arrived safely.

Feb 112011
 

My band Titanium Sporkestra is raising funds to get us to Austin, TX in March, and we have a Kickstarter page to help us raise funds to get there. We will be playing at Honk! Fest TX in Austin. The bag fees to ship a sousaphone are not trivial.

The way Kickstarter works is you set a fund raising goal and people donate to your cause. If you don’t meet the goal, then the people get their money back. We have to raise $4,500 by February 20, and we are currently at $3,694. Close, but time is running short. If you have a few bucks to spare, won’t you help us get to the Lone Star State? There are some cool prizes available too.