Friday, December 05, 2008


I took the day off work today ('tis the season to use or lose PTO) and drove down to Papago Park in Phoenix. We're going to take some of the younger boy scouts there next weekend to use the permanent orienteering course. I went to check it out.

I spent an hour trying to find a ranger so I could get the directions (ie, direction and distance to each marker) but it turns out they don't have anything published. I find that hard to believe, but maybe they just lost track of the document over the years. Regardless, I drove back to the orienteering course. yes, drove. It's a big park that contains around ten hiking trails, the Botanical Gardens, and the Phoenix Zoo.

I decided that I had to go find all the markers if we had any chance of bringing the boys out next weekend. Let me tell you, that ain't easy. First of all, we have to deal with declination that matters here. back in Wisconsin, you could practically ignore the difference between magnetic north and true north. In Arizona, no such luck. Second, the markers are all hidden from each other. It makes the course challenging with a compass. It makes it a bloody nightmare when you have no frigging idea where they are and have to wander around in the desert looking for them. It also makes it hard to get the direction correct trying to spot a hidden marker a good 200 paces away. Some are in washes, some behind trees, and some just in unexpected areas.

I managed to find the starting marker pretty quickly and ended up discovering the posts in reverse order from marker 10 through 4. I found 2 and 1 before I found 3. I measured the direction compensating for what I called a 10-degree declination and paced the distances off. I must have put in a good ten miles of wandering around before I finished. The good thing is that I found all the markers and we now have that all written down.


I started recording Silent Night instead of Hark! The Hereld Angels Sing. The slower tempo is easier to deal with while I'm still learning the equipment (both the recorder and the instruments). After a number of false starts with various instruments, I put down a vocal track all the way through. I'm not thrilled with the sound of my own voice, and saying I'm an untrained vocalist is being kind. But, maybe it's just hearing it acapella. With support from instruments, maybe it will be okay. Maybe, but I'm still no Frank Sinatra.

I recorded the first two verses, left a big gap for instrumentals, then vocals on the last and a repeat of the first verse. I tried to insert a clarinet solo in the gap, but it didn't fit and instead overlapped the vocals of verse three. I killed that one, partly due to some unplanned improv that I would have kept had it fit. Instead, I started at the beginnign of the song with the intention of moving the track later. That got aborted when everyone else got home, as it was 10:30Pm.

At least I got the vocals done when nobody was around. right now, nobody is the wiser but you.

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