Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Great Crowd Tonight!

We had an exciting rehearsal last night! 14 people showed up, and it sounded great.  We had many different sounds (mandolin, octave mandola, mandocello, guitar, and bass) and it made for a great blend of sounds. 2 people (who were at the church practicing for a play) stepped in and asked if it was okay for them to come and just listen sometime.  That was encouraging. They didn't know how to play the mandolin, but they like the uniqueness of our sound and just wanted to come back and listen to us practice sometime.  

If you didn't make it last night, we'd love for you to join us next week.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our 2nd Rehearsal - Our New Location

We had our second rehearsal tonight at our new permanent location, Cross Church of Springdale.  We had fewer people tonight, but we were able to really work through 4 of our songs.  By the end of the evening, we had played through Dreams of the Night, Tic Toc Polka, La Raspa, and El Vaquero.  Although I was so focused on my part I couldn't really hear the entire group, I think we actually sounded pretty good for our 2nd rehearsal.  

Hopefully next week we'll have a larger group.  Tonight there was a lot of talk about heavy storms (and possible tornadoes), so that may have kept people at home.  But we are excited about the possibilities with this group.

If you live around Northwest Arkansas, why not come out and join us next week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mandolin Orchestra of NWA Rehearsal Location

We have a permanent home for rehearsals!

WHERE: Cross Church Springdale Campus

(Formerly First Baptist Church of Springdale)


1709 Johnson Rd.
Springale, AR 72762

ROOM NAME: Atrium 7

LOCATION: South end of the campus by the Children's Building
DAYS: Every Tuesday (Room not available on July 17th)
TIME: 6:30 - 8:15


Enter the building through the south doors, by the covered drive.
2 of the doors will be unlocked
Atrium 7 is on your left, near the Worship offices

Our first meeting at this new location will be next Tuesday, February 28th.

Check out for more information.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mandolins and Crystal Bridges Museum

I finally got out with my new camera for about 30 minutes this afternoon.  I took one of our mandolins down the walking trail of the Crystal Bridges Museum and took a few photos.  I have more posted on my Facebook Page (Ozark Mandolins).  But here are a few that I thought turned out pretty good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some First Photos w/my New Camera

Today I got to get out and play with my camera for a few minutes before the sun went down.  So far I am just using the Portrait setting and the Landscape settings.  These are fully automatic settings where Portrait gives you an F-stop of around 1.8 - 2.0, and Landscape gives an F-stop of about 5.6.  The other settings (ISO and Shutter Speed) are most likely automatic.  So in Portrait mode, you will get a much smaller center of focus, with the background being blurred.  Here are a few of the pictures from this evening.

I'm studying other photos that I like and hope to start playing with angles.  I took a few shots tonight, but I'm not sure exactly how to frame them up so they capture the effect I see in other pictures.  Here is one, just as an example.

I welcome any suggestions on ideas on getting the proper angles. I've always shot pictures that are perfectly squared off, but there is not much creativity in that...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Canon T1i Finally Arrived!

My camera finally arrived today!  I've been waiting for almost 2 weeks now.  I ordered it on ebay, and the shipper must have put the wrong address down because after about 10 days, he received it back at his home in California.  So he had to ship it a second time. This time he added a tracking number, and it was "missent" from Little Rock to Mountain Home, which really isn't close to where I live. So even after it was reshipped by the seller, it still was delayed an entire day because of the USPS.  But it finally arrived today.  My family thought I was a bit obsessed.  I went around taking pictures of everything. I still have little to no idea about what most of the settings do, but I have posted a couple of photos here that are my firsts with my new camera.  I was indoors and had to use a flash, so you can see shadows on the second picture of the boot and mice. But I was just practicing. So over the next few weeks I will hopefully be able to get some good mandolin pictures up here.   I'm excited about what tomorrow holds.  Maybe I'll watch a refresher YouTube course on the basics of photography!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mandolin Orchestra of Northwest Arkansas - Inaugural Meeting

Had our first meeting for the Mandolin Orchestra of Northwest Arkansas tonight. Nine players showed up, and there were several others that couldn't make it because of prior commitments. We covered a lot of business, but managed to play a couple of songs toward the end. For our first try, we actually sounded pretty good. Here is a photo to commemorate our inaugural meeting!

Invite your friends to join this Facebook Page. The link "Invite Friends" is to the right of the screen. You can also send them to and have them join our mailing list. That way we can keep them informed of practice schedules, performances, and workshops.

It was a great evening! Can't wait for the next rehearsal!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Google Apps Email & CNAME Records for and

Setting Up EMAIL MX RECORDS for Google Apps
in or

When you log into your or site, you'll select Manage Domains.  There will be a list of all the domains you own. Click the Domain that you want to setup Gmail or Special CNAME records for Google Apps.

Near the bottom of the page you'll click the MANAGE link next to Email Forwarding.

Check the box next to Disable Forwarding and click the UPDATE button.

Now go back to the DNS Management screen.  The screenshot below shows how these settings should look after completing all of the instructions below. As of this writing, the MX Record settings are shown below.  
You may want to let the Google Apps Setup screens give you these as they may change from time to time.

Once you've added these MX records, you'll have to wait several hours for Google Apps to recognize the changes.  After that, you'll have your email set up for your new domain.  And the great part is it works exactly like gMail. So setup on your smart phone is very easy and will be the same as setting up a gmail account.


By default, the different apps under your domain will have links like the following:
an so on...

You may want to change these to a more simplified link such as:
and so on...

To do this, you'll need to add the following CNAME records.  This is also done in the DNS Management section.

To add the record for Google Calendars, you simply put "Calendar" in the Sub Domain box, and in the CNAME record box.  For Google Documents, you put "docs" in the Sub Domain box, and in the CNAME record box.

This is fairly straight forward, but the screenshot above will show you what it will look like on or after these CNAME records have been added.

Redirecting URL to your new Google Site 

Once you complete the CNAME records, you will create your new Google Site.  You will log into your Google account, go to the Sites page, and create a new site.  This site will have a URL like

Now you will want to redirect your URL to your new Google Website.  This is done in the URL Forward section of DNS Management on  Here is a screenshot of those settings.

This may take an hour or two to propagate through the internet, but within a few hours you should have your email account and your website account set up under your new web address.

Setup of Google Apps when using or

I'm sharing this information on my blog because I have struggled through this a few different times over the past few years and I've searched online for a simple solution, only to find that others have the same issue but no solution.  So hopefully, if you are trying to setup Google Apps and your domain is registered with Domain.Com or MyDomain.Com, this post will be helpful to you.  At a minimum, it will be documented for the next time I have a need to do this again.

The first step in setting up Google Apps is to verify that you are the actual owner of the domain that you are setting up for use with Google Apps.  The method that is recommended for Google Apps verification is to create a DNS TXT record.  Google Apps will give you a sequence of characters that they want you to add as a DNS TXT record, and within about 2 hours (can take up to 72 hours, but not likely) your site can be verified.  Although Google provides specific instructions for several domain registrars, they do not provide any instructions for domains registered at or

When you log into your or site, you'll select
Manage Domains.  There will be a list of all the domains you own. Click the Domain that you want to setup with Google Apps.

On this
Account Management screen, you'll see a section at the bottom called Other Services.  These Other Services include URL Forwarding, Email Forwarding, DNS Management, and Domain Locking Transfer Lock.  If it is your first time in, you'll be taken to the store to purchase these additional features.  These features are FREE, but you still have to go through the process to "Unlock" the features for you to use them.

Once you have purchased (they are Free) these features, click the
MANAGE link next to DNS Management.  You should see something similar to this screen:

You will now cut-and-paste the TXT record that Google Apps requires you to create into the "Text Record / TXT" box.  You will leave the Sub Domain blank.

The Google Apps TXT record will look something like this:


Click the UPDATE button and you will see your new TXT record at the top of the page.  You can see what that will look like on the screenshot above.

Now in an hour or so, Google should be able to successfully validate your site and you'll be ready for the rest of the setup.  I'll post another blog soon to cover the Email Setup and the URL Forwarding setup for your website.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Basic Functions of Canon T1i, T2i, and T3i

Many of these posts on my blog are for my own reference so that I can quickly go back and find the really helpful videos that I like without having to search for them again on YouTube.  If you are like me, I need to see these tutorials several times before it finally sinks in to my memory.  

In my previous post, I shared 3 video links that talked about the basics of Photography.  That is, the role of ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed.  I also talked about the Histogram, Metering, and the different shooting modes (M, Av, Tv, and P).  

This video I'm sharing today shows how to find all of those functions (plus a few others like White Balance, Timers, etc) on the Canon T1i, T2i, and T3i.  These are very popular entry level DSLR models (and I have the T1i), so here's a helpful video on how to use your new camera.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Digital Photography - The Basics

As I stated before, I am using this blog for 2 purposes.  One is for all things Mandolin. My wife is a great mandolin player, and I am a beginning note reader on the mandolin. But the second purpose for this blog is for my new hobby, which is Digital Photography.  So I'm writing this blog, not as a professional, but as someone who will share my discoveries along the way.  Hopefully there may be some helpful links or tips for others who are moving from the world of point-and-shoot cameras to the world of DSLR photography.

I'm still waiting for my camera to arrive, so I haven't actually been able to play with the DSLR yet, but I have been watching a few videos to try and better understand the fundamentals.  I've found a YouTube channel that I really like.  The guy is entertaining, and he makes concepts seem simple.  Much of what I initially share with you will likely come from his channel.  I'll be looking for others as well, but for now, I'm watching the videos from KreativeVueTV.

For my first few lessons, I made the following notes:

Click Here to see the actual video tutorial

(A camera’s sensitivity to light)
  • Higher ISO = more sensitivity to light
  • Lower ISO = less sensitivity to light
Aperture (Contol your depth of field)
  • Higher Aperture = broad depth-of-field (more of the image is in focus)
  • Lower Aperture = narrow depth –of-field (blur background, subject in sharp focus)
Shutter Speed (Controls the duration that light hits the camera sensor
  • Slow Shutter Speed = more light / moving objects may be blurred
  • Shorter Shutter Speed = less light / can capture moving object as if it were still


Click Here to see the actual video tutorial

Histogram (Helps you know if you are properly exposing the picture)
A histogram is the DSLR photographer’s light meter.  It displays highlight information on the right and shadow information on the left.  When reviewing your histogram, it is best to consider the information from the right first.
  • Left point shows contrast information
  • Midpoint is your midtones
  • Right point shows exposure
Metering (The DSLR will determine proper exposure settings)
  • Evaluative Metering – Takes the entire picture into account to determine proper exposure
  • Partial Metering – Takes about 9% from the center of the picture to determine proper exposure
  • Spot Metering - Takes about 3% from the center of the picture to determine proper exposure
  • Center Weighted Metering – Takes part of the focus point and part of the background to determine proper exposure


Click Here to see the actual video tutorial

M = Manual Mode 
(You control everything)
  • Aperture = You Control
  • ISO = You Control
  • Shutter Speed = You Control
NOTE: Hold the shutter down ½ way to use exposure meter and get proper exposure settings

Av = Aperture Priority 
(Ideal for shooting Portraits, Still Objects, and Landscapes)
  • Aperture = You Control
  • ISO = You Control
  • Shutter Speed = Automatic
Tv = Shutter Priority 
( Ideal for shooting Sports, Car Races, any Fast Moving Object or Event)
  • Aperture = Automatic
  • ISO = You Control
  • Shutter Speed = You Control
P = Program 
(Great for beginners, for Indoor or Outdoor Birthday Parties, Casual Picture Taking)
  • Aperture = Automatic
  • ISO = You Control
  • Shutter Speed = Automatic

I would encourage you to go watch these tutorial videos, and then use this post as a reference until you have a working knowledge in these basics of shooting photography.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mandolin Orchestra of Northwest Arkansas

My wife just found out that there is a new Mandolin Orchestra starting up in Northwest Arkansas. They will be having their first meeting on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at the Jones Center in Springdale.

This is something my wife has dreamed of for several years now.  As I stated in my previous post, she grew up playing in the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra.  Needless to say, she is very excited.  For me, it will be a great challenge.  I'm just at the beginner stages of reading music, so it will force me to become much better at note reading.  But I think I know enough to work my way through the easier tunes.

So if you play any of the mandolin family of instruments, a stand-up bass, or a guitar, why not come out and join us as we embark on the building of the Mandolin Orchestra of Northwest Arkansas!  I'll post additional information after the opening meeting for those who can't make it on that evening.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Little About Me

So here I am with my very first post.  I'm somewhat new to blogging, and will be learning as I go.  In this first post, I would like to give a little history of why I'm starting this blog.

First of all, my wife and her family have been around mandolins their entire lives.  My mother-in-law (who lived to be 92 years old) began playing the mandolin on a town square in southern Indiana when she was around 8 years old.  She played the mandolin to draw a small crowd while her dad would preach right there on the street corner.  My father-in-law was the manager of the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra for many years.  As my wife grew up in San Diego, she began playing the mandolin and the octave mandola.  She loved either instrument, but she played the mandolin and octave mandola in The San Diego Mandolin Orchestra for around 15 years.  When we moved to the mid-west, there was no mandolin orchestra nearby, and raising a family seemed to consume much of our time.  In December of 2000, my wife released a Christmas album called Snowed In With A Mandolin on CHRISTmas Day.  She had always had a dream of creating a recording, and this was a huge accomplishment.  Every mandolin or mandolin family instrument on the CD is her playing.  You can hear the recording at  Just recently, she began teaching a few students how to play the mandolin, and I became one of her students.  I could always pick out a tune on the mandolin, but reading music notes was a foreign language to me.  Slowly but surely, I've been able to learn to read music.  I'm still at a very beginner level, but I am learning none-the-less.  This past Christmas, we had a small group of us (7 people), play Christmas music at our local Chick-Fil-A restaraunt.  That was quite an accomplishment.  You can find a video of Angels We Have Heard On High from that concert on my Facebook Group (Ozark Mandolins). 

In addition to music, I've embarked on a new hobby.  I've always been interested in photography, but have never owned any camera other than a point-and-shoot style.  But that is changing now.  This week I purchased a Canon T1i DSLR camera (used).  It has not yet arrived in the mail, but I'm already watching YouTube videos to learn the basics of photography. I also purchased a 50mm lens that is supposed to be really good for close-range portrait type shots.  My initial desire is to begin taking pictures of mandolins and musical instruments.  I'll see where this new hobby takes me, though.

So that is my story of where my thoughts are around starting this blog.  I hope you find the pictures I post to be enjoyable. I'll also post information I learn that is helpful about photography.  And So I begin...