Saturday, August 31, 2013

USB Keyboard

I was visiting Andy Baird in his motor home a couple of weeks ago, and he showed me his USB Keyboard and demonstrated how it works with his computer.  I tried to teach myself piano years ago, and have had a piano and two electronic keyboards - one was an "electronic grand piano" from Costco with all the keys a full sized piano has - and I loved it.  Unfortunately, I never took lessons and could only go so far on my own.  The piano and the keyboard were sold along the way, and finally in my estate sale in 2011, the electronic grand piano was sold.  Even though it wasn't a big piece of furniture and could fit anywhere in my condo, there just wasn't any way it was going to fit in The Palms.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and here was a solution.  The keyboard Andy had was not large and would fit on my dinette table.  It has a USB cord that plugs into my laptop, and uses the laptop speakers to provide the sound.  I'd never heard of this kind of keyboard before, but it looked really interesting and might be the answer to my wanting, still, to play the piano.

When I was out of Bluewater on my six days in Grants, the second day I had an appointment for an annual service on my generator.  I had made an appointment at Rocky Mountain Cummings LLC in Albuquerque and drove down there my first day out.  They have an area where big rigs can park, and another area for RVs.  The whole area is fenced and gated and locked, so it was very safe and quiet and I arranged to stay there the night before my 8 am appointment. I just had to be there by 7 pm.

I drove down to Albuquerque and had some time to spare, so I checked at Best Buy for keyboards.  They had some, but not the size/price I was looking for.  One of the salespeople was a musician, and she recommended Guitar City, just a few minutes drive from Best Buy, so I drove over there.  Guitar City had a lot of different sizes, prices and kinds of keyboards, and they had the one I wanted, an M-Audio KeyStudio, on sale!  So, rather than order it on line and pay for shipping, I bought it on the spot, thinking I could try it out and practice while I was blacktopping it in Grants for the next five days.

The following day, after my service was complete on the generator, I drove back up to Grants, parked in a church parking lot for the day, and set up the keyboard.  That's when I realized there was no way I could play this thing with my dinette table so high.  It was bad enough typing on my flat laptop keyboard, but the electronic piano keyboard was even higher, so I packed it up and stored it until the table was lowered three or four inches.

After taking care of the table height on Wednesday, I got it out again and set up on the newly lowered table.  It's still about an inch or so too high for the keyboard, but I have a chair cushion I put on the dinette seat to make me sit higher, and that works.  The extra inch might have been too low to allow easy in and out of the dinette seats. 

I tried it out, and was surprised how much I remembered from my self-taught beginner tunes from years ago.

This is the maker of the keyboard:

For an RVer without a lot of room, this M-Audio USB Keyboard is the perfect answer for someone wanting to play keyboard. It came with a program on a CD, but unfortunately it doesn't work with Windows 8.  I have a PC with Windows 8, and Andy has e-mailed me some links for free sites that teach lessons or have other helpful things and I've also found some websites with free lessons.

Now - if you have an Apple computer like Andy, you can just download an Apple app, GarageBand, for $4.99, which is a really good program that does lots of things, allows you to lay down your own tracks, has lots of different instruments that your piano can sound like, you can record your own voice, a really nice program.  I wish there was a GarageBand for PCs, but apparently not, at least I couldn't find one that was reasonably priced. But, anyway, I need to learn how to play the thing first!

I'm going to have to go slowly, though.  Wednesday night, after playing around with some of the beginning (really simple) tunes, my hands and wrists were hurting.  I wasn't playing for long, but I was definitely using muscles that aren't used to it.

So, I have a new hobby that I never thought I'd be able to do on the road - thanks, Andy! I really appreciate the time you spent showing me your setup and letting me try it out. 

Oh, and one of the other nice things about this little USB keyboard - it has a volume control.  I can be inside The Palms playing away, and no one will be disturbed.  And believe me, from what I've done so far, if any neighbors heard me, they would definitely be disturbed.  :)

One note, for anyone who might be interested in getting a USB Keyboard - if you have an Apple device, you'll be fine, but if you have a Laptop with Windows, bring it with you. My salesman plugged a couple of keyboards into my laptop and they wouldn't "talk to each other."  Luckily, this M-Audio, which is the one Andy has, did work with Windows 8.

Pretty cool, huh?

I'm going to end with some photos of critters in and around my campsite here at Bluewater Lake.

These rabbits were playing one evening, four of them, running back and forth, chasing each other, having a great time.  Usually I see one at a time, not a group like this.  In the photo below, all four were running.

Here is one of our campground squirrels.  This guy has a big mound with his entrance hole in the center in the field by the electric sites, and he pops up from time to time, looks around surveying the landscape, runs in and out.  This day, he was heading toward the mound and saw us and stopped.  He seemed to think if he was very still, we wouldn't see him.  The funny thing was that his mouth was open, and he looked like he was smiling.  I know, I know.  But he did.  I snapped a bunch of photos as we walked by, and he didn't move.  Rabbits do the same thing.  So funny.

And then this little squirrel came by our site after I hung the seed feeder, checking it out.

 Katie was on high alert when he was out there checking things out.

Later in the afternoon, after the Pinyon Jays emptied the seed feeder and flew away, he came back.  He was still very curious about the feeder, but never ended up getting any seeds.

Then he ran down tree and sat in the grasses for a minute.

I wondered what the was doing, but didn't have a clear view, so I snapped one more photo, and this is what he was doing.

He got a little Pinyon pine cone and was trying to get the seeds out.  He finally ran away, taking the pine cone with him.  So cute.

WELCOME to our newest Follower, Roger Bond!  Roger doesn't have any information shown, so I can't give his blog a plug, but Roger, if you do have a blog, please let me know!  Thank you for following along with me and Katie - Welcome aboard!  :)

And that's it for now.  From me and Katie, have a great Saturday, everyone!  :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

RV MOD - Lowering the Dinette Table

I've been living in The Palms now for 2 years and 5 months, and the dinette table has always been too high.  About three inches too high.   That really makes a difference in my comfort level when I'm doing anything at the table.

Well, I have something new that just wasn't going to work for me unless I lowered the table, and yesterday was the day.  I had mentioned to Hazel that I wanted to do this, and she had done it before, so she came over in the morning to help.

This is the table before:

You can see below the top tabs/slots that hold the table, and also the bar that fits into the channel, with those white plastic pieces screwed in, keeping the bar from raising up and coming out.  Simple design, but it works.

Close up of the tabs that fit into the slots on the wall, holding the table securely:

This is the wall after the table was removed:

So this hardware attaches the table on the wall side, and one wood leg keeps it steady and level on the outside:

You push on the little tab to release the leg - then fold it up toward the table and raise up the end of the table to release the tabs/latches on the wall to remove  the table.

Hazel and I worked together to remove the table from the wall, and then she started unscrewing the hardware from the wall, and re-attaching it three inches lower.

Meanwhile, I took the table outside with my trusty Coghlan's Sierra Saw - a small folding saw that is very sharp and worked perfectly.

Coghlan's Sierra Saw - nine inches folded, 16 inches when opened.

I measured three inches at the bottom of the leg and started sawing, then about half way through, flipped over the table and sawed from the other side.  The cuts almost  met in the middle.

After the piece was off, I trimmed up the bottom of the leg and that was it.  Done.

I brought it back inside and Hazel was finishing up lowering the hardware.

Lined up perfectly:

Then we manhandled the table this way and that until we were able to line up the tabs into the slots.  Once that was done, the bar was placed, with a little hammering and adjusting, into the channel and the final screw with the plastic piece was screwed in, making sure the plastic piece was securely on the bar to keep it in place.  We lowered the leg and waaa-laaa.   Just right!

And here it is in the photo below, all finished.

 Doesn't it look great?

This morning I got out the putty and patched the holes and cleaned up the wall area, and it looks original.  I wish I had done this a couple of years ago.

I cannot tell you how much more comfortable I am.  I can easily slide in and out, and can rest my arms on the table now.  I could hardly type before - my laptop keyboard was so high - but now it's perfect.

Tune in next time and I'll show you photos of why I needed to lower the table.

One final photo of Katie enjoying the flower-covered field next to The Palms yesterday:

From me and Katie, have a great Thursday evening, everyone!  :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

... except there is a fish that actually DOES climb trees.  Really. 

From me and Katie, have a great Wendesday, everyone!  :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bird photo round-up

This post is going to show all the birds I've been excited to snap during the last few weeks.  I've photographed a few new birds - new checks in my birding guide - and a couple of repeats that I just liked.

I've gotten this guy before, but I just love his coloring.  I have to admit, they seem to be all over the place and are very easy to get pictures of, but I still try to get better, clearer shots.

Here's the Hairy Woodpecker again - check out the last shot.  His little pink tongue actually made it into the feeder's tiny opening and it looks like he's getting some nectar.

Next are some House Finches - a red male and the plainer brown female.  I don't know if I've seen them here at Bluewater before, but these are pretty good shots.

I changed the settings on my new camera to see if I could get the wings clearer while the female Anna's Hummingbird was was feeding - and it worked, especially in the second photo. 

I was parked in the parking lot of Saint Theresa of Avila Catholic Church in Grants, NM and heard some bird calls.  I looked up and here was a Chihuahuan Raven.  I wonder if he was singing a hymn?

This next bird is a first sighting and photo for me.  I snapped his photo at Bluewater Lake State Park.  He's a male Violet-green Swallow.

Blurry picture, but I may never get one in flight again.  Wish I had changed the camera setting before I got this shot.

This next bird is a White-breasted Nuthatch.  It was climbing all over a Pinyon Pine in the campground, then hopped off, jumped around and climbed back on the tree.  I took a ton of pictures, but it moved so fast, only a few were clear.  The male has a black cap and nape, and the female has a grey cap and nape.  I think this one is a female.

These Great-tailed Grackles are in the parking lot at Wal-Mart, the males are black and the females/juveniles (who are molting right now) are brown and black.  I liked the way this one looked, kind of raggedy:

I put up a seed feeder to see what would come by.  So far, Pinyon Jays have emptied it, but no other birds so far.  This first guy is standing on a little broken branch coming out of the trunk, looking down at the feeder.

Before I knew it, I had a tree full of Pinyon  Jays on the Pinyon Pine.  There were more, but this was taken out the front windshield, and I cropped out the rest with the steering wheel, rear-view mirror, etc.  It was fun to watch them all jockey for position to get to the feeder.  Most of them didn't make it.

This one is a Say's Phoebe - I've seen them twice in the park, I don't think they are very plentiful and felt lucky to get a photo of this guy.

I've had this green bird for a long time and she's a favorite.  She is always standing near my houseplants, and is a Fat Green Kitchenbird. They are usually seen in threesomes - one with a hat, one in a bikini and one with a belt.  Although they like to hang around together, I think the other two are stored in a cupboard for now. 

And that's all the photos of birds for now.  I have to say, although I'm not a real birder, I sure love finding new ones, getting their pictures, and checking them off in my Field Guide.  It's nice to post them in my blog for easy future reference.

From me and Katie, have a great Tuesday, everyone!  :)