Thursday, June 30, 2005

Doesn't Your Heart Just Bleed for These Guys?

Oh yeah, this is how to win the fans back once the hockey strike is over:
Philadelphia Flyers center Jeremy Roenick has some advice for hockey fans who blame the NHL lockout on players' greed: Once it's finally settled, stay home...

"We don't want you at the rink, we don't want you in the stadium, we don't want you to watch hockey," he said Saturday at the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational in suburban Pittsburgh.

"...I say personally, to everybody who called us 'spoiled,' you guys are just jealous ... we have tried so, so hard to get this game back on the ice," Roenick said. (source)
He goes on to talk about how much the players are going to "give up" to get a deal done, and how he thinks being aware of the "sacrifice" will be enough to get the fans back.

I've talked at length already about why I think that millionaire athletes don't need a union, so I won't repeat myself here. But Roenick's rant (which would be a good name for his site if he ever started blogging) just shows once again how disconnected many of these guys are with the world around them. If he thinks Joe Sixpack who earns $12.50 an hour will pony up fifty bucks a pop for hockey tickets next year because he identifies with the players' "sacrifice" (because whatever deal they get will be, oh, a bit in excess of Joe's salary), he's got another thing coming. Let him toil for a year in a "regular" job, and maybe he'll get some sorely-needed perspective on things.

Oh, an as a die-hard Texas Rangers fan, I was none too pleased to hear about Kenny Rogers' meltdown yesterday. Sure, he's been unhappy with the media all season, but Kenny....this hurts the team.

Incidentally, USA Today's Michael McCarthy links Rogers and Roenick to part of a bigger problem in sports: the two-headed dragon of "blame the fan, blame the media." Ugh. I bet this isn't the last of such incidents, I'm sorry to say.

Taking one from the Team: Over at the Team Demon/Dingus blog, we're losing our guitarist, and we're scrambling to find a place to do one last gig with him before he moves in late July.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another Very Short Movie Review

This was a long day, so I'll save everything else for tomorrow, except for this one thing: War of the Worlds is very good. Any other Musings readers see it yet? I might expound later, but in the meantime, feel free to chime in with your thoughts (no spoilers, for the benefit of those who haven't been yet).

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The View from the Back Row

Tonight at big band, we had a surfeit of saxophones; you could even say we were lousy with them. In all, we had three altos, three tenors and two baris. But we started out the rehearsal with only one trumpet player, so I found myself in the trumpet section--not playing a trumpet, mind you, but playing one of their parts on alto. I transpose from B-flat all the time when working with my tenor students, so this was the same thing in a higher octave.

It was a pretty cool experience. I felt like I was in a different ZIP code from my fellow saxes, and the director seemed a mile away. (I also see how the trumpets get away with so much talking in rehearsal; the sound doesn't carry up to the front very much). I had to get used to not responding when the saxes were asked to play. The inner trumpet parts that I was playing (you didn't really think I was playing lead, did ya?) gave me an interesting perspective into the arrangements, and everything just sounded so different from back there.

Oh, and I completely understand why the trumpet players keep those chairs behind them. They come in very handy after a tune or two (says the guy who's used to sitting all the time).

Betcha never saw this coming: In light of the SCOTUS decision yesterday, Dingus comes out in favor of Ten Commandments displays.

Today's technology at work for you: A guy decides to be clever and pretends to swallow his friend's truck key; gravity takes over and it actually happens. The doctor takes an X-ray of the key in the guy's stomach, and a locksmith makes a copy of the key from the X-ray. The key actually works. (Also notice the next article on the linked page; it's about a Denny's cashier who found an innovative way to stop a robbery.)

Monday, June 27, 2005

"The Family Business"

My parents went to Ireland last month ("and all I got was a lousy pretty cool T-shirt"), and they just sent me a picture of a charming little place they ran across while they were there:

Sure, there's one extra letter in the name, but my folks found out during their trip that a lot of McNerneys were originally McInerneys. At any rate, it's a cool little memento of their trip (not to mention a place I need to visit--and have my picture taken in front of--whenever I go over there).

The Machine wins a small victory: Those of you who follow the Supremes (that's the Court, not Diana Ross and company) know that a lot of opinions were handed down today, including the one in the MGM v. Grokster case. Though the Court came down 9-0 in favor of the content companies (i.e. Hollywood and Big Music), it may not be as much of a slam-dunk victory as it appears on the surface. There's lots of discussion over at SCOTUSblog, and InstaPundit has a clearinghouse of links on the subject.

No joy in the Hundred Aker Wood today: A few weeks ago I noted the passing of Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice behind Tony the Tiger. And now comes word that the actors who voiced Tigger and Piglet (Paul Winchell and John Fiedler respectively), have died within days of each other.

These guys did other things as well: Winchell was also a ventriloquist who had a well-known kids' TV show with his dummy sidekick, Jerry Mahoney (I saw it in reruns as a kid in California) and an inventor who patented an early artificial heart. Fiedler also played the role of the meek Mr. Peterson in the original Bob Newhart Show. (Oh, and a little bird told me that a noted Twin Citian will be "bleating" about this in a few days, with emphasis on Fiedler/Piglet; I'll link to it when it goes up.)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Some Short Sunday Stuff

Today, like the past two, was mostly unscheduled, so random thoughts abound...
  • Congratulations to the UT baseball team for winning the College World Series this afternoon. Their outstanding closer, J. Brent Cox, will make a name for himself in the big leagues sooner rather than later. One thing, though--I don't watch enough college baseball to not be startled at first by the "ping" of the (aluminum) bat; there's just something not-quite-right about that to these ears.

  • Incidentally, "Augie Garrido" is one of the coolest names ever for a baseball coach.

  • AIM is an amazing thing. Within the same hour this afternoon, I, while sitting here in Texas, talked to a fraternity brother in London and another one who's on active service duty in Fallujah, Iraq. That just blew my mind: I'm talking to someone in Fallujah. Technology is a wonderful thing, in this case. (Oh, and happy engagement, Dan!)

  • I enjoyed the fireworks tonight, even if the show was fairly short. (What, you don't celebrate the 26th of June with fireworks? OK, I don't either, but the suburb next door does theirs a week early every year so as not to compete with the ones here next weekend.)
Greetings from the real Arlen: Yesterday, it was The Simpsons; today at Althouse, the subject is King of the Hill. This "Arlen" resident felt obligated to chime in, though several other commenters pretty much beat me to the punch on most of what I wanted to say.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Taking the Show On the Road, In a Way

Here's a new one: I haven't had time to do a post of my own today because I've been too busy commenting on other blogs...Obviously, you may have to scroll down to get to my comments on any of the above posts, but the overall discussion is interesting.

Oh hey, whatdyaknow...I did just do a post today...about not posting! I think I may have tapped into the creative process of the Seinfeld writers, not to mention newspaper columnists on a deadline. Heh.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tabula Rasa

There aren't too many days for me where absolutely nothing is scheduled, but today has been one of those days. The challenge of a day like this is to be able to enjoy it without getting bored. So far, so good, as:
  • I tried the new Crunchwrap Supreme at Taco Bell, which I'd been wanting to do ever since the commercials came out. (Another element of the summer is that I occasionally watch live TV instead of having to tape everything and watch it later. During the year, the only things I see live are sporting events and 24.) I liked it, just as I liked the Double-Decker Taco, the previous mixture of soft and crunchy taco shells. I also tried Baja Blast for the first time. The bluish color is weird, but it's also good stuff.

  • I played racquetball with Ben today; I hadn't played since February, and it was January since he last played. We split the two games; I missed a whole bunch of easy shots in game two. But for me, it was nice to be in much better shape than the last time. It was also a nice break from the weight-room stuff I do most of the time.

  • Dingus and I are off to see Batman Begins in a little bit. We've each seen it once already, but I'm hoping to catch some more of the little things this time. (UPDATE: It did indeed make a lot more sense the second time around.)
What do you like to do on a day when nothing's scheduled?

A good day for a celebration? Ex-Zack-ly! Happy birthday to my good friend Zack--near-neighbor, fellow burrito aficionado and all-around great guy. Hope you have a great day.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

They're Hoopin' It Up in the Alamo City

Let's take a break from posts of substance today and talk

First of all: GO SPURS! Their victory tonight brings the championship back home to Texas; if the Mavs can't have it yet, I'm happy to see it go to a Texas team.

I've also become quite a Manu Ginobili fan during this series. And what a rush it must have been for him to win an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship within a year of each other! (Manu has a cool website too; he even does a bit of blogging!)

It would seem that I was good luck for the Spurs during the Finals as well. Whenever I watched them on TV, they did well; their losses came when I was elsewhere. Tonight, as I drove home from combo, they were down by as much as nine points until I got in front of the TV, at which time the miraculous fourth-quarter comeback commenced.

Unlike the other two Texas NBA cities, I've never lived in San Antonio. It's only "my town" for four days each February, when I attend a great convention, but I love the Riverwalk, and there's undoubtedly a big party going on down there now.

Shock (jock) waves: You could almost imagine this happening to Howard Stern, but it took place in England: Radio shock-jock tells a popular pin-up girl that he'd be willing to leave his wife and kids for her. Wife hears the broadcast and sells his Lotus on eBay for 90 cents. Ouch.

PETA will be blubbering about this: A Japanese restaurant chain is now selling whaleburgers. (Hat tip for both items: Dave Barry's Blog)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Extracurriculars for Homeschoolers?

Once again, Ann Althouse links to a New York Times article; this one discusses whether home-schooled students should be able to participate in their local school district's extracurricular activities. Fourteen states already require districts to let homeschoolers in, though most others leave it (correctly, I believe) as a local decision. Many homeschool advocates consider such access a "civil right" by virtue of their paying school taxes, but school districts are concerned about funding (especially in states like here in Texas, where districts only receive state funding for students who are present in class), transportation and liability issues. They also are concerned that homeschooled students may not be held to the same standards as public school students.

I've weighed in on the subject in the comments of Althouse's post, but I will summarize my main point: As an educator, it seems fairly presumptuous of these parents to think that they can replace a host of teachers all by themselves, usually without the training and experience of said teachers (and yes, we've all had some bad ones, but by and large--at least out here in suburbia--most of the ones I've run across are pretty good). That brings up another point: if these parents consider themselves to be better teachers than the ones in public schools, why don't they become teachers themselves? Share the wealth, will ya?

I really don't see this becoming very big here in Texas because of the fact that school districts don't get any state money for homeschooled kids. That means a district is not likely to allow those kids the "dessert" of marching band, athletics, etc., if they didn't eat their "dinner" of regular courses (and thus bring in the state "dinner money"). Anyone have any thoughts on this? Squawk back at me if you want.

UPDATE: The thread has continued in Althouse's comments for another entire day now, with myself and others making multiple entries. I can understand the attacks on administrators and teachers' unions, but I sure hate to read some of the things people are writing about teachers over there.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Anagrams from Home

(from an amusing email forwarded to me by my parents)

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

(and I did some rearranging myself, so that the funniest one was listed last:)

When you rearrange the letters:

Have any of your own? Add 'em in the comments.

Better get hit in yo' solstice: Happy first day of summer to those of you in the non-academic world. Those of us whose lives are run by school calendars have been in summer mode for around a month already. HA ha!

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Stain on His Record...Or Hers?

You've probably heard this story already, since it's been all over the Internet and the news today:
An email between a highly paid lawyer and a secretary over a tomato ketchup stain has become the talk of legal circles in London, leaving the sender distinctly red-faced.

British media reported with glee the tale of Richard Phillips who emailed the secretary to ask her to pay a four pound ($7.30) dry-cleaning bill after she accidentally spilled tomato ketchup on his trousers. (source)
The secretary, who had just returned to work after the death of her mother, became irate and forwarded it to several colleagues at the law firm.

So how would you rectify this situation if you were in the shoes of the participants?
  • Is the secretary liable for the bill because of her involvement in the accident?

  • Should the lawyer have paid the bill himself because he earns much more than his secretary?

  • Was it tacky of him to send her the email, considering her recent personal difficulties?

  • Or was it even tackier of her to forward the email to her coworkers?
Talk to me; the comments are open.

UPDATE: More details on the story from, including the fact that both the lawyer and the secretary may be leaving the firm now.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my buddy Stout, pioneer of the 2BC, who turns 21 today. He sent me a truly hilarious IM saying that he would be "celinebriating" his special day and hoped he could see two of me sometime soon (I had to think about that one for a second). Unfortunately, not even one of me got to cross paths with him today, but I hope to soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Getting a "Charge" from Coffee

Ann Althouse points to a recent Washington Post article that weighs the cost of a college student's daily latte, especially if it's purchased by credit card. The article also notes that the career services division of the Seattle (of all places!) University School of Law is trying to actively discourage its students from satisfying their Starbucks jones.

Surely, it would be better to not add even the $3 a day to one's student loan debts, but Althouse notes the benefits of daily Starbucks visits:
A café is not just the coffee. It is an entire hours-long experience that contributes to your success as a student. It's true that to be financially savvy you have to realize that you spend a lot of money by spending a small amount of money on a daily basis, but there are much worse daily expenses that call out to students: bars, movies, cigarettes, fatty snacks.

I think the café-going student is operating at a high level, making a good choice.
I totally agree. I do make my morning coffee at home now, which saves me money on both the coffee itself and the trickle of gas it took me to get to the neighborhood convenience store. But I have no problem going to Starbucks later on in the evening, either to meet with friends or to bring a book or magazine and lessen the effects of cabin fever at home on a slow night. As Seattle investment manager (and daily Starbucks customer) Jon Markman points out in the WaPo article, the company has pulled off a unique cultural phenomenon:
[I]t has created the white-collar equivalent of the tavern next to the car plant, a place where office workers, 20-somethings and teenagers can all gather in comfortable surroundings for "an addictive product that doesn't kill you."
.A spokesman for a coffee industry group also points out that your $3 gets you the use of a table for a few hours; a restaurant would kick you out long before that, in most cases.

The "Stop Buying Expensive Coffee and Save Calculator" referenced in the article may cause the user to stop and think, but ultimately, it'll probably have as little effect on most of society as the "Chipotle Calorie Calculator" did a while back. It's good to do all things in moderation, but most people like to set their own level of moderation instead of having meddlesome busybodies trying to tell them what to do. Besides, most professors who teach early classes would no more want cranky students in their midst than they would want to be in "decaf mode" themselves while teaching. I don't see that crusade having much of an impact (especially in Seattle, where, as everyone knows, Dr. Evil runs Starbucks from his office in the Space Needle).

UPDATE: David Adesnik of OxBlog defends Starbucks (and its student patrons) in fine (and hilarious) fashion. (Hat tip: InstaPundit)

Since there's nobody out there named "Punksoul": Speaking of Prof. Althouse, I always thought that her last name would be a cool description of a genre of music--a cross between alternative and house. It might have to be hyphenated (alt-house), but I could totally see that category in a CD store.

More dad's day trivia: According to SBC Texas (hat tip: DMN), phone calls don't spike as much on Father's Day as they do on Mother's Day; last year, they increased 9 percent on Mother's Day but only 4 percent on Father's Day. (For more Dad's Day trivia from the Musings archives, go here.)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "My brother's car blew up."--on a T-shirt worn by a woman at church this morning.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Still Here

It's been quite a few days since I've posted, which is rare for me, so I'm just chiming in to say that no, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I pretty much went straight back into teaching the morning after my return from Vermont, and then things have been going on every night since then, along with my parents being in town through this morning. We had a belated birthday dinner at Maggiano's last night; besides the food being great, the portions are so huge that you're almost guaranteed at least two extra meals out of the leftovers (neither Mom nor I finished this time). I had also told them about my weird Sinatra dream from a while back, so they made plenty of jokes about there being pictures of "my student" on the walls.

I have a ton of posts to catch up on, which I figure will happen tomorrow while everyone is celebrating Father's Day; we, of course, pretty much glommed that onto this weekend visit.

Radio waves: My folks had that nasty New Age station (sorry, I refuse to use the term "smooth jazz" to describe it, since the only thing it has in common with jazz is the use of horns and the lack of singing) in the car last night, and the first thing up on our way to dinner was--you guessed it--the G-weasel. Since it was my birthday dinner, I asked to change the station; I went right over to KNTU, and its first artist was Mulligan. Ahh, that's much better.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Professor Wore Flip-Flops

I taught my first summer class ever this evening--a jazz combo. Its nucleus consists of people from my evening combo during the year, but there are also several talented high school students and another older adult. I have two full rhythm sections but not enough room to split the combo in half (which would also require cloning myself or running back and forth between rooms in a frenzy all night). This means that almost every tune gets played twice, so that everyone gets a chance to participate.

I enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the summer (the fashion statement reflected in this post's title is true). There is no scheduled performance (though we could possibly book one somewhere), so we're devoting the time to learning lots of tunes. We have three guitars and not too many horns (three saxes if I play, and that's it), so the guitar players get to take their turn at playing melodies. (You know the old joke, right--How do you get a guitar player to play softly? Put a piece of music in front of him!) The people in the evening combo during the year wanted to go year-round anyway, so now they get a chance to do just that. It's going to be a good time.

Even worse than cat scratch fever: A disease borne by cats may cause humans to exhibit cat-like behavior. (via Althouse.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

No Rest for the Weary

I made it back safely from Vermont yesterday evening, and now I'm back in the thick of a full day of teaching already. The only reason there was even time for this short post was because somebody spaced and hasn't shown up so far.

I'll have a wrapup of the trip in a little while and will complete the concert reviews throughout the week.

Monday, June 13, 2005

And We're Off

BURLINGTON--We fly out for Dallas a little after 2:30 this afternoon. It's been a great trip, but it's time to get back, play my horn every day, and make money instead of spending it. I'll have a recap of my thoughts of the trip when I get back, and the concert reviews will get finished sometime during the week.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Just Another Short One

BURLINGTON--The lobby computer is still having issues, so I'll save my bigger posts for when I get back. But here are the three main highlights of today:

1) Our performance went really well. It was quite hot outside, and we were pretty much baking in the sun, but there was a lot of energy, and people really liked it.

2) The McCoy Tyner Trio concert tonight was one of the best jazz concerts I've ever seen in my entire life. Bassist Charnett Moffett nearly stole the show.

3) On this one night of the year, there's no better place to be than the Saturday Night Block Party on Church Street. Thankfully, that's exactly where I was.

4) We saw a naked bicycle race on our way into downtown tonight--no kidding. Now I can say I've seen it all (heh).

UPDATE: I told a little more of the bike-race story in the comments to an item on Dave Barry's Blog (scroll down; I'm the 8th comment).

More tomorrow, assuming the computer lets me log on; there have been problems with lots of sites (including my own email), but with Blogger, so far, so good.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Quick Update

BURLINGTON--The lobby computer is being fairly quirky lately, so I may have to wait for the full concert review from last night until I get back. Suffice it to say, the Saxophone Summit was a wonderful night of musicianship--very "out there" at times,and extremely long tunes (only three--or was it four?--within a period of nearly two hours), but these guys have definitely got it going.

Today, we play, and with any luck, we'll be able to hold off the rain that has occasionally been in the area for the past several days (with a projected high of 89 today, we've definitely brought our weather up here with us). McCoy Tyner is tonight, and again, depending on how often the online connection stays up, I may save the review for next week (I'll probably just replace this post with the Sax Summit review eventually). Wish us luck on the gig, and I'll chime in later with a recap.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Clock Strikes Midnight...For Me

BURLINGTON--I rang in my birthday tonight in unusual fashion, with the soundtrack provided by the clock tower of Burlington City Hall. Having spent the evening on the Church Street Marketplace (seeing the Chet Baker documentary Let's Get Lost, among other things), and the last group of my van passengers and I decided to stay downtown to start off the newest year of my personal calendar. There was music everywhere, and tons of people around; hopefully, a lot of this next year will turn out the same way.

This is a short post, because it's an early night for me; we're going on a three-hour canoe float in the morning, followed by lunch at the legendary Jana's Cupboard in Jeffersonville, and the "Saxophone Summit" concert of Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Chris Potter (filling in for the ailing Michael Brecker) at night. Reviews to follow, of course. But first, a good night of sleep.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Capital Exploration

We were getting cabin fever in the hotel this morning. One of the vans was gone to a fly-fishing excursion, and the other one took the just-arrived members to the Teddy Bear Factory. I had been Googling various local things down in the lobby, when the idea struck me to take a roadtrip to Vermont's capital, Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the nation. We had been as close as 15 minutes from it when we made the turnoff to Ben & Jerry's on several occasions, but none of us had ever been there, so it seemed like fun.

And fun it was. As we entered town off the freeway, the gold dome of the State House rose up over the horizon. I had read that the whole city center could be visited in a ten-minute walk, so we found a place to park. (Parking was also very different; instead of meters, there was a single machine in each lot which sold permits. You picked the amount of time you wanted to park--a quarter would buy 43 minutes--and fed the machine, which printed out a ticket that was placed on the dashboard.)

As we once again reveled in the architecture, taking all kinds of pictures in the process, our first stop was the State House, which has been around since 1859 (two previous houses, the second of which was on the same site, having been built in 1808 and 1838. Though guided tours are available, there was no charge to go in and look around ourselves. The state legislature just finished their session recently, so we were able to get a good look at their ornate chambers. Photos will definitely be posted here when I get back.

After our self-guided tour, we stopped for lunch at the Coffee Corner just down the street; it's another of the many charming old diners with delicious food and friendly service, where breakfast is served all day. I had a sandwich of "Montreal smoked meat" and a local Cabot cheddar cheese, along with a bowl of seafood chowder, and it was all amazingly good.

We walked around some more, checking out the architecture as we went, and then we took old U.S. Route 2 back to Burlington to catch more of the scenery. It was a great afternoon; I'm really glad we decided to go.

(Incidentally, many of the places we've visited in the past few days are profiled on this site.)

Fun Fact #1: Montpelier is the only state capital in the U.S. that does not have a McDonald's within its city limits.

Fun Fact #2: Vermont is one of only a handful of states that don't have an official "Governor's Mansion," so they use a special room at the State House for entertaining guests.

Discussion question of the day: Who originally decided, way back in the day, that all barns should be painted red?

"On This Date in 2005, Nothing Happened"

OK, that's not totally true, but this was our official "chill day" here on the trip. A small group of us made it downtown to Henry's Diner, which I wrote about on the previous trip two years ago. They didn't have the legendary chocolate/peanut butter pie from last time, but it was still quite good (and yes, the search is on to find the pie elsewhere before we leave). The rest of the band got in today, so many of them were in bigtime nap mode upon arrival. A bunch of us did go to a great waterfront restaurant called Shanty on the Shore. The building it's in has been around since the 1830's, and the seafood was great; one of their trademarks is clam chowder served in a bowl made of bread. Good stuff.

Tomorrow is make-your-own-excursion day; it's possible that each of the three vans (yes, we added one with the arrival of everyone else today) will go a different place. Of course, anything blogworthy will be duly reported.

This old house: One of the coolest things I've seen up here so far is the architecture. It's so completely different from Texas; many of the houses are quite old and, in keeping with the much smaller amount of land in the state, go up more than out. There's also an immense amount of wood being used in the construction, which would never happen in Texas (due both to the lesser availability of wood and the strict fire codes brought on by the dry climates). I've always been a fan of architecture, and I could fill a ton of notebooks (or CD-ROM's) with pictures if I got a shot of everything here that looks cool. It must be pretty easy to make postcards here, because I've seen so many things that are postcard-worthy.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: (during an exchange between me and Ben Z. while headed out to mail my nephews their teddy bears from the other day)
BEN: Do you want help carrying one of those?
ME: No, I think I can bear the load. I'm more concerned about the rain, because I don't want them to get bruined.
*rim shot*

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Pinnacle of the Week So Far

Today, we stood on top of the world, or at least on top of this particular state. But before and afterwards, it was all cream.

Our morning started with a quick morning excursion to the Round Church in Richmond, just outside of Burlington. The story behind the church is that there were several denominations in town, but they only had the money to build one church, so they made it round-shaped and as undenominational-looking as possible. It's very cool, but it wasn't open when we got there, so we moved on.

Our next stop was the Ben & Jerry's factory tour in Waterbury. The tour starts out with a short movie showing the history of the company, then we got to see the ice cream actually being made and packaged (they have two assembly lines running concurrently, so they can make two different flavors a day). After that, we get samples in the tasting room. One of them was a specialized, local-only flavor called The Last Straw (featuring strawberries and chocolate chunks) and the other one, available everywhere, is Dublin Mudslide, which I heartily recommend to everyone. Go. Buy some. Now.

Just like on the trip two years ago, we hiked to the top of Mt. Mansfield today; it's located just outside the resort village of Stowe. (links later, not working now). The elevation is 4393 feet--the tallest in Vermont--and we started our hike at a ranger station at around 3800 feet (the station is reached by a winding toll road that switches back and forth over the now-dormant ski trails). Fortunately, it's not all a vertical hike; it's partially sideways. It's part of the Long Trail, which starts in Canada and runs all the way through Massachusetts. I'll have pictures from the top, eventually, but suffice it to say, it's breathtaking up there (it was also really windy and much hotter than usual for up here). Oh, and the funny/bizarre thing was that the two guys in the band who smoke made it to the top (and back down again) before everyone else. Go figure.

We stopped by another covered bridge after we got to the bottom of the mountain, cooling our feet in a frigid mountain stream. After a dessert stop (which was a return trip to Ben & Jerry's), we repaired to the hotel pool and pretty much had a chill day once we got back. I'm not sure what's up for tomorrow, besides the rest of the band getting here, but I'm hoping to catch some more music somewhere.

Fun fact of the day #1: Vermont appears to have no sales tax on clothing. Though I know that the "meal and room" tax is 9%, you can evidently buy apparel and end up paying only the listed price.

Fun fact of the day #2: Every Ben & Jerry's employee receives three free pints of ice cream a day. Needless to say, a lot of it must be stockpiled in the freezer or given to family and friends, because I didn't see any employee who could be described as a "chunky monkey" (heh).

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Beary Good Day

This won't be a long post, as today was pretty "chill" compared to the activity-filled Saturday and Sunday. We started out the day at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, taking the factory tour and building bears as necessary (I got one for each of my two nephews). The tour is short and informative, as well as being full of really bad "bear" puns. We also, by a rather circuitous route (which took us over a wonderful covered bridge), ended up in the town of Middlebury, which features a very cool waterfall that's right behind the town square area (ahh, the photo's I'd post if I had a digital camera--but go here for now).

We also got to trade in the SUV's for minivans, which means we can play CD's in the Temporary KevSoccerMomMobile for the rest of the trip. This came in handy, because I picked up the new Joshua Redman CD, which is most excellent. Tomorrow, we "conquer" Mount Mansfield again, as we've done during each previous trip here. I'm sure that will be the subject of the next post.

A moo-ving experience: After lunch in Middlebury, we ended up taking refuge from a sudden storm inside this unique store called Holy Cow, dedicated to the bovine artwork of Woody Jackson, who does all the cow illustrations for Ben & Jerry's, among other things (which reminds me--we're touring the B&J factory tomorrow before the mountain ascent). They had some really fun, unusual stuff there, including a T-shirt of the American flag where all the stars were cows. Udderly enjoyable...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Into the Empire State

BURLINGTON--Today's trip took a different turn (literally) as we went up to the town of Grand Isle and eventually took a ferry across Lake Champlain over to Plattsburgh in upstate New York. [The car rally that I mentioned yesterday proved a bit too pricey for us to visit, but we did make a morning stop at a nearby place called Dakin Farm and pick up a whole bunch of good eats, many of which were made with maple syrup. I got some syrup (duhh), some honey (in a little plastic bear, of course), a pack of maple candy, a block of a local smoked cheese, and this amazing maple spread (it's all vacuum-sealed, so it'll keep until I get home). I don't normally invite my friends over to eat crackers, but you really oughta try this stuff.]

There was a lot of cool scenery throughout the trip, especially at this place we visited called Ausable Chasm. It features a breathtaking view down into this little canyon filled with swirling water. (I'll post some pictures eventually. I've realized that, of all the "toys" I'm thinking of getting in the next year or so--a bigger TV, a new computer, and so on--a digital camera is high on the list. I've been using disposable cameras since my 35mm went out a few Christmases ago, but it would be great to have some photos to post on this site during trips like this. As it is, I'll wait until we get back and people email them to me, which will still take less time than developing and scanning my own.)

We stopped at the chasm right before taking an even longer ferry back to downtown Burlington, then we chilled at the hotel until it was time to see the Randy Brecker concert, about which I'll either post separately or tack onto here later.

But otherwise, it was another long and fun day, and some of the random interesting stuff we saw appears below.

Rules of the road: When the ferry reached the New York side of the lake, our attention was immediately drawn to some of the "state rules," one of which was that it's illegal for a driver to use a cell phone. It's a good thing the two SUV's kept up with each other, because that had been our primary means of communication. We also noticed that the top legal speed limit in the state is 55 miles per hour.

It's a sign: There were a lot of funny signs along the trip. Here are a few:

"SAAB STORIES REPAIRED"--at an auto shop on the way to Grand Isle.

"DEN OF ANTIQUITY"--at an antique store near Grand Isle.

"STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS. Have another scoop."--a sign touting the ice cream at Sun Burgers, the charming little roadside stand where we stopped for lunch. I had a buffalo burger--yes, made from farm-raised bison. Good stuff! (When looking up the link, I also got a kick out of the fact that the owners of Sun Burgers are named Sundberg.)

We saw one of those Adopt-a-Highway signs on the New York side where the highway in question had been adopted by the "Star Trek club." Really; we have pictures.

We also got a picture of a historical marker next to this place called the "Sax House" with me in front of it, and eventually with all the sax players on the trip included. The ironic thing is that this house was built in 1820, which is 20 years before Adolphe Sax invented the instrument which bears his name.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Notes from the First Day

BURLINGTON--Random stuff from the beginning of the trip (edited to add a few things I forgot when originally doing the post):
  • We had a three-legged flight to get here: Dallas-Cleveland-Newark-Burlington. Cleveland was cool because I was born in the suburb of Lakewood, which is very close to the airport, and we flew right over it on the way in (but not close enough to actually see my grandparents' old house in the process).

  • Newark is, of course, very close to New York City, and at lunch, we heard our first true New York-ism when the cashier at Miami Subs Grill said "Can I help the next person on line?" That has nothing to do with the Internet; it's how New Yorkers say "in line" for some reason. (It was cool to eat at a Miami Subs again, since they pulled out of Dallas a while back.)

  • In the Newark airport, one of those little golf-cart-type things that shuttle passengers around went past us. Evidently, the cart's horn wasn't working, because the driver actually said "beep, beep" when he drove by.

  • The vehicle I'm driving for a few days is a Dodge Durango; I'll get in touch with my inner soccer mom on Monday when we get the minivans that we'll have for the rest of the week. The only drawback of the Durango is that the CD player has an Eminem CD stuck in it, and we can't get the Eject button to work at all.

  • A few of us stocked up on provisions at a local grocery store, and Zirkle and I decided to try this thing called "birch beer." It's a cousin of root beer and is quite good; imagine a cross between root beer and cream soda and you'll get the general idea.

  • The grocery store in question had a checkout line that was marked "no candy at this register." I asked my cashier if that was intended for harried parents with kids who would grab and beg for it while they were there, and she said I was correct. She also noted that one of their other cashiers is named Candy, and she used that sign to try and get out of being assigned to that register.

  • One semi-disappointing concert note: Michael Brecker is having some vertebrae problems again, so he's out of the lineup for Friday night's Saxophone Summit concert. However, he's being replaced by Chris Potter, who we didn't get to see here two years ago with the Dave Holland Big Band. I'm glad that Brecker was well enough to play with Directions in Music back in March, and we'll get to see his brother Randy tomorrow night.

Servin' in rhythm: The flight attendants on the Cleveland-to-Newark flight kept repeating this same line over and over again as they moved the beverage cart up to the front:

Watch your knees and elbows, excuse the cart.

They said this with such rhythmic precision that it almost sounded like rap; if you're a musician, put the above line to this pattern: 1-e-and-a 2-e, -a 3-and-a.(Wow, I'm such a music geek). That little chant stayed with me for quite some time.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

We're Here

BURLINGTON, VT.--This is just a quick post to let everyone know that we made it to Vermont in one piece (OK, actually 10 pieces if you count all of us). The hotel lobby computer works, so I'll have a longer post later (or tack it onto this one if I end up staying up late tonight), as several unusual and/or humorous moments have already occurred. Tomorrow, we'll see a cool classic car rally in a neighboring town, so I'm sure I'll have something about that as well.

One More Time...

It seems like every time I fly somewhere, the trip begins at some ungodly hour--so early that I tend to just pull an all-nighter the night before to eliminate the risk of oversleeping. I've posted about this on a few previous occasions, and this morning will be no exception (though a two-hour nap is still possible at this point). The college jazz band (or at least the half of us who are going on the "extended" trip) departs for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival at eight in the morning, and my shuttle leaves at the hideously early hour of 4:50 a.m. (I would normally park at the house of one of my section-mates and ride to the airport with him, but he's on the later half of the trip this time. D'oh.) So here I am, catching up on a little business and blog-reading and talking to friends on AIM here and there.

The trip will be a lot of fun, filled with interesting activities (canoeing, mountain hiking, etc.) and a stellar lineup of concerts, including Randy Brecker (playing the Miles Davis role in a re-creation of classic Gil Evans charts), McCoy Tyner, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the "Saxophone Summit" of Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman (that last one occurs on Friday, my birthday, and will, along with lunch at Jana's Cupboard, be a great way to spend that day). As noted on the sidebar, our own performance is next Saturday at 1:45, so if you happen to be in the area (does that apply to any Musings reader?), stop on by.

We do have a computer in the lobby of our hotel, so expect some posts from time to time, followed by a big roundup of concert reviews after I get back.

Feting your favorite feline: Today is Hug Your Cat Day, according to a few sites (though some say it was yesterday, and others say it was on May 15). I'm not going to try that with Tasha, who doesn't even like being picked up, but I could always send her an e-card if the computer were going to be on in my absence. (She's not much of a computer cat, but she has inadvertently sent instant messages by walking across the keyboard and hitting "return.")

Oh, and I love the passage on this site:
Maximum people love cat, so if we spend a day on our lovely cat then it will became beautiful. For this reason every year we celebrate Hug Your Cat Day on 4th June, so open your arms and hold your dear cats closer to your heart, and celebrate this day with your sweet cats also encourage all the cat lovers you know among your friends and family members. However don't miss this day without celebration.
Heh, that reminds me of those translated-from-Chinese instructions that always turn up on Jay Leno's Headlines. Great stuff.

Just call him Maestro Vader: Dingus links to a site that features a computer-animated short of a stormtrooper orchestra playing the Imperial March under Lord Vader's direction; he also points out that the trombones are basically playing their instruments backwards. I guess the ecroF was with them...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

This Word Was Music to His Ears

The National Scripps Spelling Bee championship was held today, and Anurag Kashyap, the California eighth-grader who won it all, did so by correctly spelling a musical term: appoggiatura. It was cool to hear a somewhat obscure term like that all over the radio today, even if most of the newscasters gave a rather minimal definition of the word; "a musical tone" was what I was hearing a lot of the time. (Most of my older students know what an appoggiatura is, and even how to tell it apart from a "regular" grace note.)

Incidentally, the second-place finisher was from Colleyville, here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Also, the blog Throwing Things has been liveblogging the bee for the past couple of days (scroll down a few posts).

UPDATE: More on the bee from the Blogfather, who also links to an earlier post that sheds light on why many of the spelling bee finalists are from immigrant families (most notably from India). He also links to an even more thorough definition of today's winning word.

A place to play, and...a place to play? The opening of Firewheel Town Center here in Garland just keeps getting closer, and I'm getting really psyched every time I drive by the site (which is pretty much daily) or read a new story about its progress. A story in today's paper notes that, not only will the center have a big open park-like space for kids to play, but there will also be a place for concerts. I'd love to get TD/D involved in that at some point, especially since four of the six of us have strong Garland connections.

In that story, the mayor of Garland is quoted as saying that the first thing he'll do when the center opens (on October 7) is buy a suit (since, evidently, that can't be done within the city limits at the moment). Me? I'll either go see a movie or buy a Frappuccino...

Anniversa-rents: Happy Anniversary to Mom and Dad! We'll have a big collective celebration when they come up for my birthday sometime after my trip (their anniversary is eight days before my birthday, and yes, there were some years in between that, too).

In case you missed it, I had some interesting anniversary facts at the bottom of this post last week.

UPDATE: I talked to Mom tonight, and she said that, for possibly the first time, she actually mentioned the anniversary when making their restaurant reservation for tonight, and when they got there, they were treated like royalty. Maybe they should've made a big deal out of it this whole time...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Amusing This May Be. Annoying It Could Be Too, But Fun It Was to Write

(in the spirit of the backwards post I did a while back...)

Talking with a friend on AIM tonight I was, when talking in Yoda phrases he began. Started doing so as well I did. Decided that a fun blog post it would be. Realized I did that annoying it could be (especially since the headlines to previous posts in Yoda already were written), so short I will keep it.

A slow news day it must be. A lot of teaching I did, and packing for my trip to Vermont I have been. Tomorrow, a more interesting post I will have. Done I am for now.

(If comments you leave, doing them in Yoda too please try.)