Stoyan Stefanov

Personal blog


Django’s stairway

February 12th, 2010

I'm a fan of Django Reinhardt since.... a few weeks ago. See if you can hear his influence in the two short pieces below - they are sort of gypsy/jazzy, yet warm and fender-y, parts of Stairway to heaven. The second part if the Am-G-F solo at the end.

Django's Stairway
Django's Stairway 2

Jimi yodel

October 14th, 2009

So Yahoo! is in the middle of a brand campaign. There's a whole Yodel studio, three actually, in NY, London and Mumbai, where people go and yodel with different background music. You can do too, online. The site even offers the downloadable background tracks for your mixing pleasure.

I couldn't just sit and watch, now could I? After all, I've helped the Yahoo brand before, why stop now. So I took the Blues background from here (the separate zipped tracks are here), dusted off the old axe and, too embarrassed to yodel vocally, did so with my wah-wah, in what I was hoping would resemble Jimi Hendrix style.

Here's the really short result piece, enjoy.
Jimi yodel

Friendly fish

July 12th, 2009

Friendly fish, originally uploaded by ssttoo.

(testing flickr-to-blog uploads)

Zlatina in the Chinese garden in the Huntigton library in Pasadena, CA

“Spanish Me, Caravan” – 6 new recordings

June 13th, 2009

Yes, since I got this mike, yours truly has been busy recording. Flamenco-style. Below you can hear 6 new recordings. And while you listen, let me tell you more about these songs.

  1. Intro (Me Gusta Ta Paragua)
  2. Spanish Me, Caravan
  3. Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho
  4. Mucho Trabajo - Poco Dinero
  5. Entre Dos Aguas
  6. Borrowed Lame

About the "album"

Friends of mine are heading on a 15 day road trip from Bulgaria, through a bunch of countries, Southern France and all the way to Barcelona. Leaving tomorrow actually. The ultimate goal is the Formula 1 race in Barcelona. But, as often with these trips, it's the journey, not the destination, if you allow me to go all zen about it.

I can't join them this time around, but that shouldn't prevent me from thinking about it. I've never been to Spain, I hope I'll go there one day. So I thought it would be cool to record a bunch of spanish famenco style songs and send them to my friends to listen while on the road.

When we were younger and could party for days on end, we used to play a lot and Peter, one of the gang, told me one night, after the N-th rakia "Hey let's play the one that goes Spanish me, Spanish me, Caravan". The song he meant was "Spanish Caravan" by The Doors that goes "Carry me, caravan, take me away...". It was funny. We remembered that, and started calling the song this way. I couldn't think of a more appropriate title for my "album".

1. Intro (Me Gusta Ta Paragua)

This is just an intro to the next song. Loosely based on Asturias, as adopted by Andres Segovia, he was an admirable man, no doubt. Apparently, if it wasn't him, the guitar would still be looked down on by "serious" classical musicians and dismissed as a gypsy instrument. (Kinda like the guitar to the classical musicians is like JavaScript to Java programmers).

Among the noise you can even hear my banjo. Also clapping of hands and pretty much every noise-making of my kid's toys I could lay my hands on before they got back from the park that day and joined the fun.

Chords are: B, C.

Btw, following the tradition from Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, I drop-tune half a step down.

2. Spanish Me, Caravan

This is based on The Doors' Spanish Caravan, which is in turn based on the same Asturias by Segovia.

The only piece that I allowed myself the liberty of singing.

If my voice sounds as if I was in the bathroom, it's because I was. Not only this song but everything I played is recorded in the bathroom at night, once the kids are in bed. And before my wife comes knocking to kindly let me know she loves my art and all but she also needs sleep. You can hear her knocking on the door on this song towards the end of the acoustic part.

If you hear background noise, it's the fan of my computer during the recordings.

3. Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho

This is my rendition of Paco De Lucia/Al di Meola/John MacLaughlin's famous piece from Saturday Night in San Francisco.

The chords of the rhythmic part are not known to me and have haunted me for years. This time I settled on:
- Em, Am, D, G, C, Am, B, B
two times, then followed by
- Em, Am, D, G, F, Em, D, C, B
and back to the first sequence. The end of the first sequence actually reminds of one classical piece I don't know the name of. It's played at the end of an old Doors movie (directed by Jim Morrison, no less).

The second chord sequence is closer to (parts of) the original though.

4. Mucho Trabajo - Poco Dinero

This is just an intro to the next song. My rhythm guitarist at parties (same Peter) about half a lifetime ago, could not remember all the chord changes in the next one, but he did remember this progression - Em, D, C, B. So we used to play it slowly and then faster. Here I somewhat do the slow part as an intro to the full thing that follows.

The title is one of the two semi-nonsensical phrases another friend taught me. This one means "lot of work, no money". The other one is "I like your umbrella", the title of the first piece above - Me Gusta Ta Paragua.

The chords like I said are repeating that classical spanish progression: Em, D, C, B and towards the end I throw for good measure one change of C, D and finally Em.

5. Entre Dos Aguas

This is a magnificent piece by Paco De Lucia. I naturally improvise most of the parts, the only things that resemble the original I learned back at high school. Same with the Sundae, actually. No internet back then (imagine that!) and very rare access to guitar tabs. So most of the songs we learned from each other or "pulling" from the cassette tape. Press play-pause-guess on the guitar-rewind... until you come up with something acceptable. Then you compare with how someone else "pulled" and you realize you were both wrong, hehe.

First part: Am, Bm, Am, B
Second part: Em, D, C, B
Third: D, Em

The percussion instrument is actually not a real instrument but a tourist souvenir my mom sent me from from Tunisia. But it so looks like a percussion thingie.

6. Borrowed Lame

This is a little melody I came up with while conceiving the idea of these recordings. The part around the third and forth chord reminds me of something very much, but I can put my finger on it. So I'm sure I stole part of the melody. Steal is a harsh word, so how about borrow. And once I get really famous with this piece (cough-cough) it will be a "borrowed fame". Fame - too much. Lame - better. Borrowed Lame.

Chords: Am, G, Am, Em, C, G, B, Em.

The end is two effects from Garage Band - a sailboat "in high sea" and a thunder.


Hope you like. I certainly had fun recording.

new strings and a mike

June 6th, 2009

A trip to guitar center today. Got myself new strings, because I lost my sixth a week ago - nylon classic strings d'Addario, "normal" thickness. Don't quite like the first three, sound kinda "meh", will go for thicker, harder strings next time, even if they slow down my virtuoso solos. But the sound of the D, A and E when they are new - priceless!

Also got a mike, turns out the same type of mike (the "condensed" type) is what you need for recording voice for podcasts and screencasts and for recording acoustic guitar. I naturally went for the cheapest mike they carry in Guitar Center, CAD U37, $69, with USB. Plug and record :)

So here's the first result, a Zeppelin song (I can't remember the name though, duh), instrumental by Jimmy Page. Recorded in the bathroom, as you can tell by the echo.


Movie extra wannabe

May 17th, 2009

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do". "Si fueris R?mae, R?m?n? v?vit? m?re". When in LA? "Do as the Mexicans do" first comes to mind, but no! When in LA, you gotta be a movie star. Right.

My wife was looking up how one can be on the set of Twilight and I decided to keep digging. Eventually found a site called - they let you set up a profile and so on, but if you want to apply for a casting, you need to pay for a membership. Yack. I'm not *that* motivated as to pay for information on how to get to a casting. But, lo and behold, they have Sundays free for people in LA.

So today I picked three productions where they are looking for "movie extras", that is, not actors, just, you know, sitting around trying to look casual. There's nothing casual about being filmed but still, you gotta *act* natural. If anyone (of the two people that will read this blog post) is interested, here are the details about the castings:

  • Eclipse
    Central Casting / 220 S. Flower St. Burbank, CA 91502
  • 2 and a half men
    Ken Miller Valko / Miller Casting 3500 W. Olive Ave. Suite 780 Burbank CA 91505
  • Grey's Anatomy
    Linda Lowy Grey's Anatomy Casting 4151 Prospect Avenue Cottages Room 105 Los Angeles CA 90027

The site says: Send a headshot and a resume to this address. Huh? A resume? For a movie extra? Argh. But.. when in LA...

Found two articles and managed to somehow put up half a page worth of bullet points. A PDF of the result is here, in the unlikely case you want to borrow from it.

Off I go to print and mail my resume and headshots. See ya from the movie/TV screen :)

Saving the planet

March 12th, 2009

An old, but fresh view on saving the planet by George Carlin.

Wrong wording

March 12th, 2009

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Warning: rant ahead)

Looking at the "call for papers" page of an IT Management conference, I see things like these in the "IT Business Management" track:

# Secrets of successfully managing an IT business
# Keeping techies focused on the business goals

These are important topics but the mere wording of it tells that whoever wrote it is clueless and looking at it from a very, very wrong angle.

Anything that has "Secrets of..." in the title is just plain wrong. Secrets of losing weight, the secrets of achieving happiness... all wrong. There ain't no secrets, there are no tips and tricks, no shortcuts. If you're looking for the silver bullet that will solve all your problems and will make you filthy rich, sexier and a top IT manager ... well, you can spend the rest of your life buying into the next fad with no result. That's why fad diets and agile methodologies are profitable, because too many people are just hopeless lazy optimists that really, really want the next silver bullet to work for them. They don't want to put in the effort, they just want the secret shortcut that will magically solve everything.

As for keeping the techies focused on the business... anyone referring to the programmers, developers, sys admins, db folks as "techies" is screwed a priori. "Techies'" job is not in any way similar to manufacturing, picking cotton or something. "Techies" are not cattle that you need to enforce going in the same "business" direction. This is a common misconception. For a proof - look around for successful projects. Most of them started by "techies", not by business folks. These projects usually lose their edge when they become too much focused on business goals, when the company goes IPO and so on.

So here you are - my top 2 secrets...

"Secrets of Managing Techies and IT Projects"

  1. stop saying (and thinking) "techies"
  2. stop looking for secrets


February 23rd, 2009


"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."

Kurt Vonnegut
Modern day Dudeist philosopher

It's funny (and just a little distracting) to be working on a search engine front-end, you end up learning random stuff while testing. One test query I use is "dude", naturally, so today I accidentally found such fun things as - The Church of the later-day dude :D

My minicards

February 20th, 2009

my mini cards

So I'm a proud owner of 100 awesome mini cards with my book cover on the back.

Two days ago I realized I'm meeting a lot of people next week, and, again, I don't have any cards. So I thought it would be nice to have one of those mini cards (or moo cards) to give away.

Struggled a bit with the self-editor on until I read the instructions on the card dimension. So I finally got it right and was ready to order, but then realized the shipping will take well over a week. Clearly not good.

Tried also but their prices were outrageous.

Evetually made it work with and now I got the cards in the mail. I ordered Wednesday night after hours and received them on Friday. Nice. Maybe the fact that they are a local company from Glendale, CA has something to do with it. Shipping was free so with the sales tax and I got my cards for $20 and a few cents. Pretty cool. And now that I blogged about it, they'll send me 100 free cards, yeey.

Two recommendations for MyMiniCards:

  1. publish the dimensions of the card or better yet, provide a template like I ended up creating an image way bigger than I need with black background, so that I can position it exactly the way I want.From "The dimensions of the cards are published here at the bottom of the page and we do have a template available here." I guess I was too frustrated with and too inpatient to look for instructions.
  2. A "rest-assured" preview later in the process, or a PDF email will be cool. Up until I received the cards, I was worried I messed up the possioning of the background. All was good, but I was a wee nervous. From my POV I took my chances paying for something I'm not 100% how it looks

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