The FAQ Page. Actually more of a bathroom wall page

Just ask a question or submit a thought and I will answer right on this page. This page isn't just about horn playing or backpacking or photography- its open for discussions on any topic. Send me an email with the question and I will post it and the answer here. Let me know if you want your name posted along with it.

I've given up on the bulliten board idea for now because it is too complicated and I don't have enough traffic anyway. This may be a bit confusing but at least the messages will be here for all to see. That way we can all put our two cents worth in. Don't worry about a thread. I'll number the entries and you can refer to the number if you want or you can just take off in another direction. I'm going to edit this anyway.

1. (From the famous "horn list") What do Assistant Principal horns do? Why do they exist? etc.

In the professional world, the position of Assistant Principal horn is one of those good news bad news things. The good news is that you get extra money, the bad news is that you have to do all the dirty work. You may get to play some principal horn, but only the pieces that no one else wants to play. You get to play loud, but rarely soft. One perk might be that many people think you ARE the principal horn because you are sitting on the end of the section!

Actually, the assistant position is very important to the section and especially to the principal player. I know, I've seen a lot of people bragging about how they never use an assistant, but these are not professional players who play full seasons in an orchestra. They are also most likely kidding themselves about the quality of their playing- especially on delicate exposed solos. I've done my share of playing full concerts without an assistant, and while it did help teach me how to pace myself, I always knew that I (we, the whole section that is) could have done better with an assistant.

The idea is that an assistant takes some of the load off of the principal player so that they can be at their best for those big moments. The big moments are often soft, delicate passages, best played when not preceded by endless long, loud, high notes. A good assistant is ready to jump in at any time to spell the first player. The best thing to do is mark exactly where you want the assistant to play for the concert in advance. This is not always possible, so you have to have a little signal or two to let your assistant know when to play and when to get out. Some will say that an assistant should always play when the dynamic goes over forte, but this is a rule carried out mostly in schools and amateur groups. Most of the time, you aren't playing when your assistant is playing and vice versa. Sometimes having that fifth player to beef up a certain passage is great, but these are exceptions, and, in these cases, I always had the assistant be careful not to play louder than me or anyone else in the section in order to maintain a good balance.

A good assistant is always ready to play but does not sit there and act like he is just going to jump in at any moment. This just makes the principal nervous and casts doubts upon the professionalism of the assistant. The assistant is there to help- discretely. A good assistant can sneak in on a soft note to cover a breath and be out before anyone knows the difference.

Regular, tenured assistants also may be asked to play other parts in the section, especially when there are extra horn parts. This starts to fall under the label of a utility position, but each orchestra has its own contractual rules.

2. (From many backpackers) Why can't I "bag" or "hang" my food in Yosemite and other places in the sierras.?

The simple answer is: The bears are just too good. They will get it. You will go hungry. This also applies to other areas in the Sierras. You can be fined and/or thrown off of some trails if you do not have a bear canister. The area around Mt. Whitney has now become especially strict about this. I know there are a lot of books out there, some old and even some new ones, that still advocate hanging food sacks. This does not apply in many places in the Sierras.

Even a "good hang" does not guarantee success. If an adult bear cannot make the climb or get out on a small branch or the rope itself, they will send their cubs. The cubs or the adults will also "dive bomb" off the tree at the bag. A large bear will climb to the top of one of the supporting trees and swing the whole tree back and forth with its weight until the bag falls. If you tie the bag off from below, they will figure it out. Getting the picture?

So what about bear canisters? These PVC plastic or aluminum barrels with the smooth sides and no access for claws are so effective that most bears don't even bother to try and get in them anymore. They move on to people who are hanging their food. We have camped any number of times near people who have had their food stolen and once we even had a member of our group have food taken from his pack (see the Half Dome trip) and we have never had a bear even touch one of our canisters. The most humorus of these was during the recent trip to Cathedral Lakes and beyond. You could probably make a bear canister out of cardboard and a bear wouldn't touch it because they have given up on them.

As for cars. Don't get me started. Take all the food or anything that resembles or smells like food or a food container out of your car and put it in one of the steel bear boxes. That's what they are there for. They know what coolers are for. They know what potato chips smell like- and they can smell like we can see. They love to pop out windows on vans. They will go through the back seat of your car into the trunk. There is a famous picture of a small Japanese car completely destroyed because a bear went in the driver's window (ripping the door off in the process), tore through the front seats to get to the back, ripped through the back seat to get to the trunk, and then managed to "pop" the trunk from the inside with out using the lock. The "spaces" in the big, dirt, backpackers' parking lot near Curry Village are delineated with broken glass. Just pull right in.

Maybe we've just been lucky, but we have not had these problems because we don't leave anything in the car that will attract a bear. We spend a little time on every trip checking very carefully. Yes, I do worry a little about my car, back at the trailhead, when I am out there in the middle of nowhere, but so far our efforts have been successful. Like I say, there are plenty of other cars (with careless owners) for the bears to choose from.

Everybody who comes to Yosemite wants to see the bears. The bears want to see them too.

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