Sunday, February 28, 2010

Arkansas, August 2009

Since my blog was originally going to be one mainly about
photography, I thought I would post some of my photos on
occasion. So here, I present to you some of the ones I took
from our vacation in Hot Springs, Arkansas last August. It was
very pretty, it was enough for me to even want to live there.

We stayed in a rustic cabin on Lake Hamilton for a few days, it
was very old and creaky. (But updated to include heat, lights,
running water, etc.)

It was kind of creepy-looking at night:

I had a pretty good time convincing The Daughter that it may be
haunted. It was peaceful enough during the daytime, but the
floors creaked, the doors all squeaked really bad, and we found
a spooky trap door in the ceiling. I told The Daughter that we
will wait until nightfall, then we will open it up and
investigate it. She passed on that idea.

The next morning, I took a photo of a nice house across the
lake, it was so serene and peaceful looking that I had to try
and capture it:

The Daughter wanted to go for a rowboat ride, and she is the one
who insisted that she would do all the rowing, so she could show
me she knew how to do it. She probably did a better job than I
would have been able to do:

After a few days at Hamilton, we headed to DeGray Lake, and,
being the photographer, I had to get up early in the morning to
catch the sunrise:

When we went swimming at the lake during the day, I found this
really cool bent tree.

It almost reminded me of a dragon, with
two horns coming out of his head:

There was also a dragonfly that landed on my head when I got
out of the water, and it insisted on hanging out there for quite
some time!

And now I have to end this fascinating slide show with another
early shot of a boat in the calm of early morning, and a
spider web that I couldn't resist photographing.

I hope this hasn't been TOO boring for you!

Peace be with you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to NOT make money in Music

Ok, so we played a gig last Saturday. It went really well. We
had a good time, we sounded OK, and I don't believe I did any
major screw-ups which would have made everyone else look bad.

Now, one thing that must be understood here is that we are a
Christian band. We don't make any money, and we are not doing
this to make money. It is spiritual, comforting, and is also
great fun.

So we don't play clubs, rock venues, backyard parties, or The
Hollywood Bowl. We do coffeehouses, church functions,
sometimes Masses. Our gig last Saturday was a Magnificat
Breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn in Lewisville, Texas. Events
like this might have between 300-600 people in attendance.
Like everyone else who attends, we each had to pay $18.00
to be there, even though we were part of the entertainment.

So here is a picture of me in front of some of the equipment,
and our fearless leader Roger warming up his axe:
(Do they still refer to guitars as axes?)

Roger and me:

A shot of the interior from a recent event before the frenzied
crowd arrives:

The night before the gig, we usually get everything set up.
Roger has to rent a U-Haul moving van for 24 hours. We meet up
at his house...where he has his studio... and load it up.
Amps, keyboards, mixers, drums, music stands, microphones and
microphone stands, speakers, monitors, and miles and miles of
thick cable.

Depending on how much help we are able to dig up, we usually
have the van loaded up in about an hour. this case
last Friday night...we head out to the hotel. It is nearby,
it only takes about half an hour to get there. We arrived by
around 7:00 PM.

Unloading is a bit of grunt work, but then, once all the
merchandise is inside and scattered around, we are able to start
assembling the various components. Everything has to be set up,
wires connected, tested, cables taped down.

The electronic drums add a whole new dimension to the mix, as
they take longer to set up than standard acoustic drums.

(They are LESS work to physically carry around and set up, but
the fact that they have to be plugged in and programmed makes
it more time-consuming).

I got very lucky this time, I was able to program some really
great sounding tom-toms into them, which in the past I had been
having trouble doing.

There are usually a few glitches that come up, such as bad
cables, sound checks that fail, etc. But this time it went
OK, we were done and out of there by 11:00 PM.

I went home, got some sleep, and arrived back at the hotel at
about 7:15 AM for a final check. (Some members opt to stay
overnight at the hotel, especially if it is pretty far out from
home, but that is an added expense, so I usually don't do this).
The event ran from 9:00 AM till noon.

Breaking it all down is always much quicker than setting it up,
and we had lots of help too. It only took us an hour to make it
all go away and get it into the van.

All we had to do next was go back to the studio at Roger's house,
unload the van, and get it back to U-Haul.

Sometimes Roger will get compensated for his expenses by the
guy that runs the video, or some of the Church groups. When we
compare our notes at the end of the gig, we always joke that you
know you have made it in the music world when you play a gig,
and you break even!

But again, money is not the reason we play. It is a lot of work,
but a lot of fun. It is well worth it to enjoy ourselves, and
if we are able to help our listeners with their spirituality,
that is all the reward we need.

Like Roger says, "It's what we do."

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


One of the things that I like about digital photography
is that you can manipulate things. However, in the case of these
photos of levitating objects, there is no manipulation going on.
As usual, click to see the pictures full-size.

For instance, this is what I call The Spoon:

Notice the big shadow on the ceiling behind the spoon,
the result of the flash to illuminate this floating object.
This is not trickery, that is the way shadows appear when a
bright light source is extremely close to the object.

You get the same effect when you put your hand very close to a
floodlight. Since your hand is very close to the light, almost
covering it up, you see the shadow of your hand looking like a
big spider covering up the entire wall.

We see a similar shadow next to the levitating toy car:

The pictures below are a comb, and a hairbrush:

This last one is one of my shirts, magically floating in air:

But the only manipulation here is simply tossing these objects
into the air, and 'freezing' them with the flash.
Pretty cool, huh?

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pediatricians Want Redesign of Hot Dogs to Curb Kids' Choking

MONDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- The leading group of
pediatricians in the United States is pushing for a redesign of
common foods such as hot dogs and candies, along with new
warning labels placed on food packaging, to help curb sometimes
fatal incidents of child choking.

I know you have probably all seen this story already. If not,
let's all pause and let this sink in...

Okay, now let's continue:

"Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk,"
he (Dr. Gary Smith) pointed out. Smith said that hot dogs were
high on the list of foods that could be redesigned -- perhaps
the shape, although he said it would be up to the manufacturers
to figure out the specifics.

I'm not sure how a hot dog could be redesigned, and still be a
hot dog. I am not arguing that we need to protect our kids, but
when The Daughter was very small, we would not give her hot
dogs whole...we always cut them up into little pieces for her.
Maybe we just need to be as careful with hot dogs and little
kids as we are with things like electrical cords, strings from
window blinds, and car seats.

So far there have not been any movements to re-design wires
and strings, we are just expected to take responsibility on our

The article continues:
"Other high-risk foods include...peanuts and nuts, even peanut butter."

Are we going to re-design nuts?

Now, I have a kid. Nobody understands more than me how we
have to love and protect our kids, keep them safe and out of
danger, look out for them, etc. So when I tell you how stupid
this is, don't think I am insensitive.

The point here is, I know the danger, but what are you going to
do? Forbid her from using pencils and forks because of the
danger of stabbing? (You may know from this post that The
Daughter only begrudgingly allows me to use a knife to this day.)

So it's not even just kids that are in danger...even their
so-called protectors need looking out for.

We have to do the best we can and use common sense, as in
everything else in life. Rather than making the manufacturer of
hot dogs take the blame, we need to do this ourselves.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

13 Going On 18

Being an older gentleman, I have experienced lots of things in
my life. And, as any parent will tell you, nothing compares with
having kids. There are certain things in your life that will
change, and you can only understand this if you either have kids,
or are lucky enough to spend a lot of time around them.

My saying is, you have no idea how much you can love
someone until you have a kid.

You know how we all get certain songs stuck in our heads from
time to time. We end up humming it to ourselves all day long,
sometimes even to the point of annoyance. When we have kids, the
songs you get stuck in your head may change.

There is nothing quite as charming as going to work, and maybe
being in a meeting with a room full of functional adults, and
having "Wee Willie Winkie" repeating inside your skull over and
over again.

You may be talking to your boss, discussing important business-
things, but in your head, you are hearing:

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...

You are shocked to discover you know the words to the second
and third verses as well:

Build it up with iron bars, iron bars, iron bars...
Iron bars may bend and break, bend and break, bend and break...

And in fact, before you had the kid, you probably didn't know
there even WAS a second and third verse.

Now, even though I only have one kid, as they progress through
the various stages of baby, toddler, pre-teen, and teenager
wannabee, it is almost as if you have had several different
kids. As usual, I will use The Daughter as an example.

The Daughter: Age 2

Through memories, photos, and videos, I nostalgically observe
this wonderful, sweet little girl as she learns how to walk, talk,
and become her own person. We have The Daughter at age 2.

The Daughter: Age 5

We have a little person with whom we can now interact with.
She lovingly grabs me and hugs me. Hearing her tiny little
voice saying 'Daddy' is about the sweetest sound I have ever
heard in all my life.
Our TV fare includes Arthur, Elmo's World, and Barney.
Like other parents, this is the stage where I learn to
hate Barney.

The Daughter: Age 8

She plays games with me, we go to movies together, and go on
bike rides. We have stretched our entertainment horizon to
include Spongebob, Dragon Tales, and Cyberchase.
This is just a fabulous age.

The Daughter: Age 10

It just keeps getting better and better.
She is smart and funny. We go to the Daddy-Daughter dance
on Valentine's day. She still tolerates my presence and
continues to acknowledge my existence. Life is good.

The Daughter: Age 12

All good things must come to an end.
I am not allowed to touch her (which means no hugs).
I speak only when spoken to.
I am allowed to chauffeur her to different places and
to friends' houses.
I am also permitted to fund her extra-curricular activities.

But I know she still loves me...she is just not as demonstrative
as she once was. And often, I catch glimpses of the sweet little
thing I used to know.

Projecting The Daughter at Age 15:

She will probably allow me to teach her how to (gasp) drive.
She will also realize by then that she is not getting a Vette.

Projecting The Daughter at Age 21:

She will be excelling in her college education (resulting from a
Scholarship) so she can get a good job that she likes and make a
lot of money.

Projecting The Daughter at Age 30:

I will be babysitting my grandchildren.
She will be supporting me in the lifestyle I have become accustomed to.

Projecting The Daughter at Age 40:

She will attend my funeral and will know that I was the best
daddy I could possibly be. She will forgive me for all the times
I have failed her, and keep me in her memory all her life. She
will remember how much I loved her and always did the best
that I could.

Peace be with you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Invasion

Where we live, as is probably true in countless other locations,
there are specific areas that the birds like to congregate in
the evening for their pre-roosting parties. The things that
people build are just perfect for birds, such as street signs,
power poles, and especially transmission lines. Birds must love
people so much.

Now, being a nature boy, I am especially fond of birds. A few
at a time, anyway. But when you take anything and clump them
all together in a small space, they become vermin. These are
scenes right out of Hitchcock's The Birds:

One wire is the same as another, I reckon, so why they choose to
accumulate in this specific spot I don't know. I am tempted to
think that it is because of all the food joints that are in this
retail complex, but in reality, there is not a lot of food that
gets tossed around on the ground for them to scavenge.

I know at amusement parks the birds exist solely on discarded
french fries and burger bits that get discarded by people
eating at the various hamburger stands. But the food joints in
the complex that we are discussing are all really indoors, there
are not any freebies for them here.

A lady pulled up in her car while I was photographing them, I
think she was concerned that I didn't have an umbrella. (As it
turned out, my car got the brunt of the free-falling poop, as
far as I know, I was still clean when I got home).

She told me that "Something must be done!" I have to agree
with her, the sidewalks under the wires are pretty much a
war zone.

Maybe they like all the lights? The area is pretty brightly
lit. I can tell you that if you drive by the Taco Bell or the
Whatta-burger in the middle of the night, the birds are
active...they are flying around, screeching, chattering,
fertilizing the pavement...when the hell do they sleep?

I guess that's just the way they roll.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Old Music Lover

I am a music lover, I like to write music, and I like to listen
to music loud. I enjoy rock and roll, folk, Pop, progressive,
blues, jazz, Motown, Big Band, Classical...just about anything.

As a rule I do not "idolize" famous people, but I can say that
the Beatles were truly the greatest musical experience we have
seen yet. Their popularity with people is the result of
legitimately great and original music, combined with the
'charisma' and personality of the members themselves.

And, surprisingly, I find that even young people seem to
somehow find the Beatles and take an interest in them as well.
My thirteen year old daughter and her friends all seem to have
Beatles songs on their PC's and their ipods. I don't know how
they even know enough to search for them, unless they have
been influenced by adults. But however it happens, I often
hear my daughter playing Beatles music and singing along with

Most of my favorite musicians were from the 70's and 80'
high school and young adult years. These include The Beatles,
Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Creedence
Clearwater, Neil Diamond, Elton John (his older stuff), and
the various 'one hit wonders' from the 70's. Amazingly, a
great many of these artists are still around today, over 30
years later as I write this!

There are lots of talented singers out today, I can think of
some with absolutely beautiful voices, with dynamic range and
quality. The unfortunate thing is a lot of the songs they are
singing are just not good songs.

I don't hear many stirring lyrics, or exceptional melody lines,
and even the background music and arrangements on much of the
new music is bland and plastic, with synthesized drums and
unoriginal melodies.

I would much rather hear someone with a less than perfect voice
sing a good song with great instrumentation, then hear a great
singer wail and show off their range with a boring and
forgettable tune.

However, and this is my daughter began to get
into the hip and popular music of today, I really had no choice
but to hear it...and I am now sampling new contemporary music
again! (I also hear a lot of new music at the gym when I work
out, as they have videos playing on all the monitors).

I have to say that I am finding that I really do like much of
the new music today! I still don't know the names of many of
the artists or the titles of their tunes, but it is kind of fun
to be exposed to new music again.

Now, if I may be so bold as to state, at the risk of
embarrassing myself...I have enjoyed...get ready now...Miley
Cyrus! Ouch, it hurts to admit that! She sings decently enough,
considering that most of these bopper females all sound
alike...but the music is well-produced and tastefully arranged,
the songs well-written.

What I am saying is that a group of very talented and
experienced musicians got together and wrote and recorded
some great instrumental tracks, and just happened to let Miley
Cyrus do the singing. Since she has a passable voice, it sounds
good to me.

Not to take anything away from Ms. Cyrus, but if it was any
other really great female singer putting her vocals on these
same recorded tracks, it would sound great.

I am less abashed to say that I really enjoy the music of Avril
Lavigne, and have even purchased several of her CD's. It is
impressive that she writes her own music, and she has many
different styles, all very tasteful to me.

I am happy to say that having a Seventh-grader around the
house is making this nearly 54 year old dude stay young!

Peace be with you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snowstorm Aftermath

In an effort to amuse Ian with my images of the massive
(by our standards) snowstorm, here is some the damage
caused to the trees:

A very cool snow fort:

And a random sampling of some creative snow people:

I really got a kick out of this 'snow family'

Peace be with you!