Reed #atozchallenge

Saxophone reed. Image by shonamcq from Pixabay

I always wanted to play the saxophone, for some reason. Now that I think of it, I should have just gone ahead and rented one for a while to see whether it was as much fun as it looks. As it was, I picked up another reed instrument: the piob mhor, or great Highland bagpipes.

I don’t have a picture of myself playing the pipes, so this will have to do. Image by enny more from Pixabay

The saxophone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, English horn, and yes, the bagpipes are all reed instruments. That’s not an exhaustive list: there are lots more instruments that have reeds in them, but that’s beside the point.

Saxophones and clarinets are single-reed instruments. The reed they use is a single strip of cane, like you see in the picture above. The reed is attached to the mouthpiece, and the player blows through the gap between them. This causes the reed to vibrate and sound to be directed through the instrument, which can be altered using the keys in the front of the instrument. Kind of like tenor saxophone player Junior Walker, best known for his songs "Shotgun" and "What Does It Take."

Oboes, bassoons, English horns, and bagpipes use a double reed. It’s kind of like taking two single reeds and binding them together, so that when the player blows between them, they vibrate against each other.

Bassoon reeds. Source: Wikipedia

In bagpipes, the double reed is fitted into the chanter, or melody pipe (what the piper is fingering as he plays). The chanter is fitted into the bag and the air in the bag does the "blowing." In addition, single reeds are fitted into the drones (the pipes on the piper’s shoulder) and sound a single note as the piper plays. Keeping the chanter and the drones going steadily is part of the joy of playing the pipes. I did all right, but had a tendency to press too hard on the bag and blow the notes flat. They fixed that problem by giving me the heaviest chanter reed they could. I wish I could have played like this guy…

Red #atozchallenge

The trapezoid from yesterday, because it’s red.

Every time I try to talk about the electromagnetic spectrum, I manage to snag my britches on my own pitchfork, as Andy Taylor would say on The Andy Griffith Show. Anyway, above the frequencies used for radio and television waves, but below the x-rays and gamma rays on the spectrum, is the visible segment of the spectrum, where you find our friend Roy G. Biv, i.e. the colors of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red has the longest wavelength of the colors, roughly 675 to 700 nanometers (or 6750 to 7000 Angstroms, or 0.000027 to 0.000028 inches). Waves longer than those, from 1 to 10 micrometers, are infrared waves, which are handy for TV remotes.

Redheaded sisters. Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay

Red is also a hair color, which occurs naturally in roughly 1-2% of the population. Among that 1-2% are my sister-in-law and about half the cousins on the Holton side of the family. When it wasn’t all white or gray, my hair had red highlights in it. Mom always used to say that I should have been a redhead, because, in addition to the red highlights, I have fair skin and lots of freckles and I burn really easily if I don’t use sunscreen.

(And here’s my annual reminder to everyone, regardless of what color your hair is: wear sunscreen. Melanoma is nothing to screw around with. And those of you who like tanning beds, for the sake of your friends and family, please stop using them. They’re more dangerous than the sun. People would rather see you with pale skin than see you in a hospital bed.)

Me in 8th grade. I don’t know if my hair was that red or if the colors faded over 50 years.

Wikipedia (which earns the title The Blogger’s Best Friend™ every day) has a list of redheaded people. It doesn’t include fictional characters, like Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables or Archie Andrews from the comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, and Riverdale. And speaking of Archie, here are The Archies with "Sugar, Sugar."

Natural redheads are almost all of Northern or Northwestern European descent. There are probably more redheads in Ireland than the rest of the world, with Scotland running a close second. There are quite a few in Germany, as it happens, and in Scandinavia. I once heard about a connection between the Vikings and red hair, but most of the sources I saw said that was largely a myth.

Rectangle #atozchallenge

I taught myself Inkscape just so I could draw this…

So, let’s review what we learned about shapes back when we were in grade school. The rectangle, like the one you see above, consists of two sets of parallel sides (AB || CD and AC || BD) and all the interior angles (A, B, C, and D) are 90°. AB = CD and AC = BD. If all four sides are of equal length, you have a square.

More Inkscape by me

If a figure has two sets of parallel sides but the angles are not equal to 90°, you have a parallelogram.

This was the first picture I did

And if all four sides of your parallelogram are equal, you have a rhombus.

Well, the sides were equal when I drew it…

If you have a four-sided figure where two of the sides are equal, that’s a trapezoid.

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease…

All of these figures are called quadrilaterals (from the Latin meaning "four sides") as are figures like this one:

This took forever to figure out how to draw.

There will be a test later on this material. Pray for a fire drill.

Rebate #atozchallenge

Image by Aksa2011 from Pixabay

When Windows XP came out, one of our local retailers was advertising a free webcam with the purchase of the upgrade. I couldn’t have cared less about the webcam, but if they were just giving it away, I wouldn’t say no to it. So, I take the software and the webcam to the register, and the cashier charges me for both.

"Wait a sec… the webcam is supposed to be free!" I protested.

"It’s free after the rebate from Logitech," she said. She handed me a form. "You fill this out and mail it in with a copy of the receipt and the UPC on the package, and they’ll refund the purchase price." Needless to say, I told them what they could do with their "free" webcam, and after much wrangling with the cashier and her supervisor, they voided the sale and rang up just the software.

I think what bothered me was they didn’t say that it was "free after rebate," or that point was not clear on the sign (i.e. I missed it). I wouldn’t have even messed with the camera had I known that.

Rebates are usually pretty generous, because you have to work to get them. If you don’t mind doing all the work (filling out the form, gathering the other stuff to send in, finding an envelope and stamp, sending everything in on time, and waiting 8-12 weeks for them to cut you a check), revealing your information to the manufacturer (who will then use it to try and sell you more stuff), and waiting for your money, they’re terrific. From the retailer’s and/or manufacturer’s perspective, only about half of the people eligible for the rebate claim it, so any money that they’ve set aside to pay for the rebates earns interest, and when the promotion ends they get to keep the money, plus they now know who their customers are and more about them.

So, if you get a mail-in rebate, be sure and mail it in.

Ready! #atozchallenge

IBM 3279 terminal, like I used to use. Source: Retro-Computing Society of Rhode Island / CC BY-SA (

Ready or not, here we go… Welcome to the 2020 Blogging from A To Z April Challenge!

When I started to work with IBM computers, I learned the online language that you had to speak to make the Time Sharing Option (or TSO) know what you wanted to do. When you signed on, the machine would print a couple of lines about who you were, maybe include a thought for the day if your systems programmer enabled that script, optionally execute any scripts you might want it to at signon time (we had a crude animation that we spent most of one afternoon making, of a man farting in a dog’s face and knocking the animal unconscious, that our boss made us promise never to run during business hours), then give you this:


At which point you’d type a command and TSO would execute it. More often than not, the command was


which would put you into the Structured Programming Facility. That made TSO a whole lot easier to use. SPF went through a few changes, becoming first ISPF, then becoming a part of something larger called PDF (no relation to Portable Document Format) that took many of the great SPF screens and moved them where you couldn’t find them. When you were done working for the day, you’d get out of SPF and see


again, at which point you’d


and go to the train station or the bus to go home. Data processing, ’70’s style.

And now a word from Betty Crocker Ready-to-Spread frosting.