Happy New Year from Stormhorn

A white-breasted nuthatch was at my bird feeder a few minutes ago searching hopefully for seed. Poor little thing! The seed stash has been low these past few days. Monday I sprained my left ankle while hiking in Yankee Springs, and I haven't been up to replenishing the feeding station. In fact, my life has been largely reduced to sitting in the couch keeping my leg elevated and my ankle iced. Lisa has been taking great care of me. Still, I like to do what I can for myself, so for three days I hobbled around gingerly, thinking that, c'mon, I hadn't hurt myself all that badly. But I had, and I wasn't doing my ankle any favors. Yesterday I finally concluded that maybe crutches wouldn't be a bad idea after all. I've never used them before, and these ones have taken some getting used to. I wish they came with training wheels. But I'm getting the hang of them, and taking the stress off my ankle is definitely helping. Maybe in a few days I won't need the crutches anymore. Anyway, I just refilled the finch sack with thistle seed and both feeding tubes with sunflower seed. A couple of chickadees have already discovered the fresh supply, and it won't be long before the rest of the birds do as well. I think it'll be a matter of only minutes before the finches arrive and my balcony will once again swarm with bird action. What a wild and difficult ride this year has been! And now we've arrived at the last day of it. Poised on the brink of 2012, I look back and think, whew! No repeats, please. Nationally and globally, this has been a year of horrific natural disasters, economic turmoil, and unprecedented political upheaval. On a personal level, I have struggled financially as copywriting projects for a key client slowed down from what had been an abundance to a trickle and finally to nothing. The tight finances massively hampered my ability to chase storms, and consequently I had to sit out some incredible events. Missing them was more than frustrating; it was painful, and it has taken a toll on my sense of identity as a storm chaser. Thankfully, there have been good things to even out the bad. I published The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete, which duplicates the material in The Giant Steps Scratch Pad in all 12 keys. That has been a major accomplishment. I also began chasing locally for WOOD TV's Storm Team 8, and my first chase for them resulted in a pretty solid coup during a damaging straight-line wind event down in Battle Creek. Also I got to experience Hurricane Irene down in South Carolina, and while I opted out of catching the eye at landfall, I saw enough both on the coast and inland to satisfy my curiosity. Moreover, Lisa has been recovering nicely from a horribly painful frozen shoulder that she incurred at the beginning of the year. And while Mom's knee replacement sidelined me from chasing what turned out to be a history-making super-outbreak of tornadoes down in Alabama on April 27, the result has been more than worthwhile; Mom's knee is now pain-free and Mom can walk again. As for my copywriting and editorial business, The CopyFox, other opportunities have been coming my way. I definitely miss the steady flow of business from my key client, but I much enjoy the new kinds of projects I've been getting from Bethany Christian Services and Baker Books. I'm currently in the middle of editing a book for Heart & Life Publishing, a new publishing service operated by my friend Kevin Miles. If there's one bit of wisdom that I continue to prove through the years, it's to step through open doors and embrace new opportunities to learn and grow in the talents God has given me. It's important to know when to say no; but that being understood, there is a lot in life to say yes to. I have no resolutions for the New Year. There are and will be goals big and small to reach for in their proper time, and I find that approach to be more realistic than making resolutions. I do hope, though, that I'll get in a few successful chases this coming storm season to make up for the ones I've missed this year. Still no snow, by the way, and it looks like that's how it'll stay through tonight. The 1723 UTC station obs show 38 degrees at GRR, and we're forecasted to get up into the low 40s, so a green New Year is in store, just like last year. But it won't stay that way for long; West Michigan's first major winter storm is set to dump six to eight inches of snow on us tomorrow through Monday, and these warm temperatures will soon be a thing of the past. January is poised to swoop in with fangs bared. So it's a good thing I got those bird feeders filled back up. The finches still haven't arrived. But the chickadees have been doing steady traffic, a couple of rosy-breasted nuthatches are making sporadic appearances, and the woodpeckers have been bellying up to the suet all along. The birds are taken care of. Now it's my turn. It's early afternoon and I'm still sitting here in my robe; time to shower up and get the rest of this day in gear. Lord, thank you for this difficult but nevertheless gracious year. When disappointment and hardship hit, I find it easy to complain. But you are always there in the midst of my life, and I have no problem seeing your goodness when I seek your priorities over my personal wants. My part is to do my best, but you're the one who calls the shots. Thanks for tonight's gig with my good friend Ed. Thanks for my dear, dear woman, Lisa, and for my mom and siblings and friends. Thanks for the gifts of storm chasing and music, which not only make me come alive, but also shape me as a person. Thanks for the beautiful Michigan outdoors which I love so much--the wetlands, the wildflowers, the sandhill cranes ratcheting in the marshes, the rivers and streams and lakes filled with fish, the blonde sweep of dunes along the Lake Michigan shore, the forested, glacial hills at sundown. Thanks for the gift of my senses that lets me drink in all of these things, and for emotions that let me feel the wonder of it all. Thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for love. Thank you, precious Lord, for you. I hope that a few of you will make it down to Fall Creek down in Hastings this evening to catch Ed and me. But whatever you wind up doing, have a fun and safe night. Happy New Year, one and all!

Master “Giant Steps” in All 12 Keys with The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete

Excuse me while I deviate from this blog's generally non-commercial tone into a bit of blatant self-promotion. As you know if you've followed the musical part of Stormhorn.com for any length of time, I've self-published a practice resource for jazz musicians titled The Giant Steps Scratch Pad. Without going into details that I've already covered on the Scratch Pad page, the original editions provide 155 licks and patterns in the standard key for concert pitch, Bb, Eb, and bass cleff instruments. This new edition takes that effort to the ultimate level for those who want to master John Coltrane's jazz rites-of-passage tune, "Giant Steps," in every key. Available now as an instant PDF download,The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete gives you a grand total of 1,860 exercises written in treble clef. Speaking modestly but plainly, this is a terrific resource for jazz musicians. It gives you enough theory to help you understand Coltrane changes in the context of "Giant Steps"; however, its focus is on getting you actually playing through the changes comfortably and creatively. To the best of my knowledge, no other book like it exists that provides a practical and comprehensive means of mastering "Giant Steps." Written in treble clef, The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete is 252 pages in length and costs $21.95. As I've already mentioned, it is currently available as a PDF download only. That seems to be what people prefer, and I'm reluctant to invest more time and effort preparing a print edition unless I know there's a reasonable demand for one. I'd have to charge more to make it worth my while, and you'd have to pay for shipping on top of the purchase price. However, given the size of this new, complete edition, there may be an interest in a print version, so let me know. Enough requests can make the difference. And I will say that the cover which I had professionally designed for the standard-key editions looks very sharp, better than most of what I've seen in music stores. To place your order, or to learn more about The Giant Steps Scratch Pad and check out printable page samples, click here. Also, if you like what you find, please tell your fellow musicians. Self-publishing means self-marketing, and the best way to accomplish that is through word-of-mouth. Nothing means more to other musicians--and to me, personally--than the recommendation of a colleague. Thanks for your interest and for spreading the word! --Bob

The Giant Steps Scratch Pad in All 12 Keys Is Nearly Finished!

A quick report on the upcoming all-keys edition of The Giant Steps Scratch Pad. It's almost finished! In fact, I had hoped to publish it today, but I ran into one of those inevitable last-minute snags that I won't be able to fix until tomorrow. However, while the problem is irritating, it's easily resolved. So assuming that nothing blows up in my face, I should be able to make this new edition available for sale as a PDF download sometime tomorrow. I'm titling it The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete: 155 Licks and Patterns in Every Key to Help You Master John Coltrane's Challenging Tune. Right now my plan is to sell the book strictly as a PDF download. However, at 250 pages, it may be practical for me to also offer it as a softcover print edition. I'll welcome your feedback on this, so please click on the "comments" link if you wish to share your input.