A sequencer for Jazz Chord Practice

As I work to develop my “Jazz vocabulary”, I wanted an electronic flashcard tool that would help me with ingraining jazz chord patterns at the piano.   Since I didn’t find what I wanted, I wrote the app.

Here’s what I came up with:   A Sequencer for Jazz Chord Practice

The app will present chords of your choice in random order or sequenced by intervals of your choice.   Have look.  Let me know what you think.



Quick Change Bit holders

I bought a collection of quick change driver bits: square, phillips, hex, torx, and straight. Some came with holders for the set; some did not. I saw this as an opportunity for some precision “woodworking”.

Well, actually it wasn’t woodworking, but I used woodworking tools. The material of choice was polyethylene plastic sheet.  Very conveniently, the material was cut from an inexpensive Walmart cutting board (more on that later).  Here’s the result, comparing my work with the commercial equivalent:

Commercial holder on the left. Shop-made holders on the right.

As you can see, I set myself up  for a precision boring challenge.  The polyethylene sheet that I had available was sized similarly to the commercial version :  0.347 inches (11/32 inches).   The bore needed for a friction fit of the bits was 9/32 inches, which left 1/32 of an inch margin.   The material would work with that small a margin, where wood would not.   Achieving precision was the challenge.

That challenge was met nicely at the drill press with the compound slide table that I’d bought recently for another purpose

Compound slide table from Grizzly

In setting up the operation, I carefully aligned the edge of the top vise to be within a hair’s breadth (0.001 inch) of the drill bit cutting surface when the table travelled from one end of the vise to the other.   With that complete,the material could be placed in the vise and positioned for each bore with the left-right adjustment wheels.   As it turned out (pun intended), the holes were positioned by turning the wheel 3-1/2 turns (whatever distance that was).

As I mentioned earlier, the material was from a Walmart kitchen cutting board:

The price was right ($9.95) for this application. Working with it, I could see no difference in strength or workability from from industrial UHMW polyethylene sheet ($30.47 plus shipping)

I was tickled with the process, price, and result!




Front Door Handleset Repair

Yesterday I got an oops text from my wife:


I recognized immediately:

  • These handlesets are expensive.
  • I’m a woodworker, not a metalworker.
  • But I fix stuff.

So despite being unqualified, I tore into it this morning.

I found that the thumb latch rotates on a pin inserted in a pair of holes bored in the pot metal casting. There’s not much material around the bore, and one side had broken out.

I knew that I had some solder recommended for work with disparate metals and pot metal castings in particular.   It’s a solder that melts at a low temperature (around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, I believe), and can be worked with a heat gun.   Bingo.   I had some stuff that might work.

I cut out a chunk of 1/16″ aluminum stock and prepared the casting for soldering.

Ready for solder.


A new hole was bored through the repair.

The repair was trimmed using an abrasive disk, leaving more material around the bore than the original casting did.

The repaired part is ready for reinstallation in the handleset.


It works.   Ask me about it a year from now!  I think it will still be good (unfounded confidence of a woodworker).

Here’s the material I used, soldering with a heat gun:

Super Alloy 1 Multi-Metal and Pot-Metal Solder




Can I borrow a cup of sugar

In 2019, a neighbor can appear at the door and ask to borrow a cup of sugar!  It happened tonight.   What a delight.   It’s nice to have a neighbor like that, and nice to be a neighbor like that.

In our suburban existence, we are not fully integrated into a community: certainly not as I knew community growing up in the 50s and 60s.   But today, someone I care about and care for asked for a cup of sugar,  and I smiled.  It’s nice to be able to loan a cup of sugar.

Consider the value of borrowing a cup of sugar.   This author says it may define community:  Borrowing Things From Our Neighbors Strengthens Society  




The Ballad of Pearly Sue

It was just four notes that did it; my mind skipped a track from Shenandoah to The Ballad of Pearly Sue!

Four notes:  a variation on the theme of Shenandoah and a repeated motif in Pearly Sue!

Though I’ve been practicing the transcription of Keith Jarrett’s Shenandoah performance for months, this four-note passage took me on a crazy incongruous path this morning. Shenandoah is a wistful and mournful piece, which I play while visualizing the cobbled streets of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and the agony that the Civil War brought there.  Pearly Sue, though, is an upbeat and  joyful expression of life and the self-determination of strong women everywhere. Those four notes triggered a neuron or two and suddenly I was singing a somewhat obscure song of joy, that I hadn’t heard in ten years!

Susannah McCorkle wrote and performed The Ballad of Pearly Sue in 1989:  six years after Sally Ride blasted off in a rocket ship.   It is an exuberant performance and a  marvelous telling of the empowerment of women.   It speaks of the strong women in my life and the hope that each of us may chart our own path.    It makes me smile, laugh and cry.

What about you?



Just Like Downtown

Dad passed away in 2001.   He was someone who was known as a practical man.   He could get things done, and was always looking for the better way to do whatever needed to be done.   That better way generally involved Yankee ingenuity, and machines.

1960s: Harvey McGuire (Dad) in the meter shop at Pacific County PUD ( Public Utility District)

This morning I was particularly missing Dad, as he would have enjoyed my project of the morning.   I’m not much of a machinist, but my capabilities have been growing, since I acquired and rehabilitated a 1950’s Atlas metal lathe.   I bought it out of interest, and also because it could occasionally be useful in piano rebuilding.   But why an old Atlas lathe that needed some fix up instead of something  new?   Because that’s what Dad would have done.   As a matter of fact he once acquired a small fixer-upper Atlas lathe.  Unfortunately that fix-up never happened.  He just  didn’t get around to it.   So when I bought the lathe it was for the both of us!

I’m becoming more familiar with the lathe, and this morning I enjoyed a new project making adjustable pedal rods for the 1918 Knabe grand piano I’m working on.   The commercial versions weren’t quite right, and … well … I had the lathe!

A custom, adjustable pedal rod. Top post and nut are fabricated from 1/2″ hexagonal stock. 5/16″ brass rod.

If Dad had been here, it would have been fun, and I know exactly what he would have said.   He’d gently turn that rod in his massive hands, nod his head and say, “Well, that’s just like downtown.”





A House

In about 1942, my Dad, Harvey McGuire built a house with Grandpa Henkel. That house became a home for the family that Harvey and LaRue McGuire created. It will always be remembered as a place of love and stability. It was the McGuire Family home for sixty-six years.  Here are some of the images of the place as we remember.

Photo Source

At age 92, as Mom made a transition to a retirement apartment, she sold the house.  Over the past 10 years another family came to love that same home.  A few days ago, they offered the home for sale again.   We were delighted at what the house had become!

Photo Source

933 Crescent St. Raymond, WA 98577
26 Photos 
Charming home situated on a large corner lot with 2048 SF of living space. Walk in to your large dining room/family room, kitchen, two bedrooms, full bath & laundry room on main floor. Upstairs offers additional bedroom, bonus room and master suite. Luscious green grass surrounds the home on four lots with fire pit, back deck and raised flower beds. Additional detached bonus room w/ wood burning stove, great for entertaining. Detached single car garage and shop with cold storage room. 4 Bedroom | 1.75 Bathroom | Bonus Room | 2048 SF | Detached Garage | Cold Storage Room | Additional Detached Room | Outdoor Living  MLS: 1413016

Next Chapter?



A first metal lathe project

I work in wood.  But for years I’ve wanted to get into the machinist’s world too.   A few months ago I “ran across” a 1950s  Craftsman/Atlas lathe that I couldn’t resist.   Until last week it sat in the shop waiting for me.  Now after cleaning the lathe, doing minor repairs, watching hours of Youtube instructionals,  poring over old manuals, and buying doo-dads, I’ve completed my first project.  I’m pretty darned pleased.

It’s a tool gizmo, recognizable to piano technicians.

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Piano wire coil winder

Craftsman/Atlas 12 inch lathe (1950s)

Craftsman/Atlas 12 inch lathe (1950s)



Non-Athletic Exercise

I am not an athlete! Never have been. Never will be. Of course at age 66 the transformation is highly unlikely anyway.

I don’t want to get whiny, but to set some background: in grade school when teams were being chosen, I was always chosen last. That’s not very encouraging. From fifth grade to tenth grade, PE was a required subject. I hated PE. All the while, though, I did like my bike and rode it for miles. I did like to swim and hike in the woods. I wasn’t totally unfit. I was just under-developed.

Duane at age 10. Not unfit. Just under-developed!

Something changed when I was sixteen, and I didn’t see the change coming. In those late high school years, I had the good fortune of working for The Dennis Company, where I loaded and unloaded trucks, I delivered truckloads of bricks and concrete blocks which were unloaded by hand. I unloaded rail cars full of animal feed in 100 pound bags. Sometimes with a partner. Sometimes without. I liked the work, and had no idea that I was building muscle.

Then, in the Fall following high school graduation, I found myself enrolled as a Freshman at Grays Harbor Community College, where a “basic skills” PE class was required! What!? I thought I was done with that. But there I was again in tennis shoes and gym shorts dreading the embarrassment. Wouldn’t you know it? Early in the course I found myself in a line of boys with the instruction to climb the rope! Yeah,  the 20 feet of rope from the floor of the gym to the ceiling. Just like that stupid rope at Raymond High School, where I never cleared five feet. I naturally placed myself at the end of the line, to meditate on my pending doom.     I still had no idea that my experiences at Dennis Company had changed my physique.  But when I placed my hands on that rope, one hand went over the other until I was at the ceiling!  I looked around at the gym and the boys beneath me in utter amazement, until the coach said, “OK.  That’s good.  Come on down.”

In the intervening years I’ve spent about 80,000 hours sitting behind a desk, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t climb that rope today.   I’m not unfit.  Just under-developed.   To my credit, I have probably bicycled more than 10,000  miles in the past 15 years.  So the legs are in pretty good shape.   The core and the upper body, on the other hand, have lost a lot of strength.   Ironically,  at age 66, that’s changing.

In February, I joined the VASA Fitness gym, because they sent me a pretty picture of their lap pool.   Once again, I found that sweating in the gym just doesn’t appeal to me, but the pool, well that’s different.  The more I swim, the more I like it!   And as it turns out I don’t need to take a teenager’s job to get the upper body working well again.

After summer travel I began swimming regularly, until it became a daily habit.   Then I found a swim coach at The Swim Academy, and my body started changing!  I have found muscles I had forgotten.   I’m swimming faster, stronger, and longer.  When I started I could swim 2 lengths freestyle before needing a breather with a more comfortable stroke. Then it was 4, then 10, then 16, and then 35 for a full half-mile. I went for my swim at VASA again this morning without a new goal in mind. I swam my 35 lengths in 26 minutes, and noted that was a new record for speed. But I also noticed that I wasn’t spent! So I just restarted the lap counter and went for another 23 lengths. I was astounded. Again, I’ve reached new heights without even realizing it. I swam 0.82 miles in 46 minutes, and for an old non-athlete like me, that’s astounding!

It’s kind of a sweetheart deal:  getting stronger while not realizing it.   It’s pretty much like my good work at The Dennis Company, except I don’t get the $2 per hour.



A once in a lifetime recipe

Chocolate Custard

Left-over hot chocolate from your Christmas Piano Recital

Crack some eggs into a bowl
Beat the eggs.
Pour some left over hot chocolate into the bowl
Stir it all together.
Think: that could probably use some vanilla
Add vanilla
Think: you probably didn’t use enough eggs
Add eggs
Butter a baking dish that’s big enough.
Pour your stuff into the baking dish.
Turn the oven on to 325.
Think: I see no reason for that to preheat
Put your stuff in the oven
Set the timer for 40 minutes
Go do some stuff and forget about it.
Realize later that you have no idea when the timer went off.
Take your stuff out of the oven

My mother taught me how to cook. Three rules apply here:

  • If you have leftovers, you can make something good out of it.
  • If you use good ingredients, it will be good.
  • Custard is good.

This does call to mind hundreds and hundreds of pounds of government surplus rice delivered to Raymond High School when Mom was the head cook there.  She said,

“I just couldn’t cook enough rice.  And those kids didn’t like it much, either. Then one day I was making mashed potatoes and I thought, ‘What difference would it make if I put a few pounds of cooked rice in that?’. You know, no one knew the difference, and they were pretty good mashed potatoes. I sure got rid of that rice.”



Occasional observations of Duane McGuire