Monday, August 31, 2009

Bamboozled by a Ballgame

I had plans to do a post about the cool new music I've been listening to the past few days, but now I'm worn out.

Blame tonight's Rangers game for that. When I was listening to it on the radio while driving home, it was 11-0, Toronto. The Rangers started a mini-rally right before I got to my garage, and it was 11-4 when I turned off the car. I made a mental note to check back in half an hour or so. And when I did that, the score had been tightened to 11-10! Off to the living room with me...

And after a "meh" eighth inning at bat, the wheels totally came off in the top of the ninth. Final score: Toronto 18, Rangers 10 (sounds more like a football score!). And to make matters worse, tomorrow's a doubleheader. Thank goodness for September 1 call-up, as the team sure went through a lot of pitchers tonight.

As i said, I'm worn out. I'll try the music post tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I can has Kevmobile? Yes, I can!

I was going to do a fairly lengthy post about some of the cool new music I've been listening to this weekend, but I wasn't going to have time to finish it anyway (me, delay a post? Never!). Besides, there's a bigger piece of news: After a nine-week hiatus, including nearly two months of borrowing automatic transmission cars, my knee has healed to the point that I can shift gears again. That's right, the trading period is over, and, just a few minutes ago, I was reunited with Kevmobile 2.0.

Needless to say, I'm excited. I have a bit of driving to do for teaching tomorrow, and it suddenly got to be a lot more fun. I was going to attempt the trade-back pretty soon anyway, but the car I had traded for needed to be inspected by the end of tomorrow, so today seemed like the opportune time. I was happy to experience no issues on my drive around the area.

I'll do that music post tomorrow if there's time; I discovered quite a few cool new CDs yesterday that I want to talk about.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

There's Still No Place Like Home

Today marks my eighth anniversary as a homeowner, and I still couldn't be happier with my decision to do that. And although I probably should have done it years before (I shudder to think of all the money I shelled out in rent during the years prior to this purchase), I"m very happy that I ended up in the house that I did, in the location where I am.

I just took a look back at my thoughts on this day five years ago, and I have to say that I'm still in complete agreement with what I said back then:
It hasn't been without its problems, of course, but I have to say that, all in all, homeownership is really cool. Mom and Dad come up every few months and do more stuff to spruce the place up, and even when I'm stuck mowing the lawn, it's not all that bad because I realize that it's my own place that I'm making look nice instead of somebody else's (I don't miss the rental house at all in that respect, not one bit).

And now that I've been there a while, it's gotten an identity of its own as a place full of music and friends. The hangs, the jams...I've never felt more at home in any other place I lived since the house I grew up in[...]

Here's to many more years of great times in this place...
And the lawnmowing even gets hired out now; that's another bonus: Living right next door to an ├╝ber-handyman who also does nearly every lawn on the block, making it the best-kept one in the neighborhood, if I do say so myself.

And while the housing market in some places is cratering, the value of my house has actually gone up a bit (thanks, Firewheel!). The economic turmoil of the past year may have taken some of the shine off the idea that homeownership is the best way for a non-corporate entity to create wealth, but even if that's so, it's still been a great investment for me thus far.

And as I said in that old post, here's to many more great years under the roof of Casa de Kev!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lance's Secret Tour de Plano (or "Home Tweet Home")

As you probably know from my Tour de France posts over the years, I"ve been a Lance Armstrong fan for quite some time now. When I got on Twitter a few months ago, I started following his feed (along with nearly 2 million other people), and it's been fun to follow his globetrotting since this years Tour ended. But the location of today's tweets surprised me: He was back home in Plano!

Most die-hard fans know that Lance grew up in Plano, even though he's more closely associated with Austin (and thinking of the terrain of both places, Austin obviously wins hands-down in terms of having the best hills for cyclists to train). But he's had a complicated relationship with his hometown over the years, with a lot of that stemming from some school officials at Plano East Senior High who didn't want to let him graduate because he had missed so many days of school to ride in bike races. He's evidently been invited back a few times in an official capacity, but he's turned it down every time so far.

So it was probably fitting that his visit was of the quiet variety. It started out with a simple twee this morning: "Tour de Plano bike ride today." Unlike the one in Scotland last week, where he invited anyone in Glasgow to join him (and hundreds did), it's unknown if anyone was even riding with him. But he tweeted his way down memory lane, posting pictures of some old haunts: Armstrong MIddle School (no, it wasn't named after him); Plano East; Southfork Ranch; the house where he grew up in Plano (I know roughly where it is, because a friend of mine grew up across the alley from him); and even a little sample of a Plano street that's paved in brick.

The crazy thing for me is that part of my teaching route directly overlaps the place where Lance was riding. If only it had been a day earlier, we could have possibly crossed paths. (It's not as if I could have gone riding with him, of course, since my knee has a way to go before I'm even riding full revolutions on a stationary bike.) But if I'd passed him on the road, my thought would likely have been "Hey, that guy looks like Lance," but would I have really known I was in the presence of the real thing?

At any rate, what's become a fun hobby was a lot more fun today when the landmarks being tweeted about were so familiar.

UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News chronicles the ride and notes that the Richardson BIke Mart, which actually hosts a "Tour de Plano" ride on Saturdays, was inundated with calls from Lance's Twitter followers wondering if the ride had been moved a day earlier.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: From a tweet by Lance the next day, " I actually had someone ask me (in ohio) how I did in the TdP... I said I won." Why yes, Lance, I'd say you did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Comedian's Worst Nightmare?

What would stand-up comedy be without mother-in-law jokes? It's a staple of the genre. But now, a comedian may be regretting that she told quite so many of them, seeing as how she's getting sued for the practice. The plaintiff? Why, of course, her own mother-in-law:
"Take my mother-in-law — please," isn't a joke you're likely to hear often these days from Sunda Croonquist. The veteran comic is being sued by her mother-in-law after making her the punchline of too many jokes.

The mother-in-law is accusing Croonquist of spreading false, defamatory and racist lies with in-law jokes that have become a staple of her routine in nightclubs and on television channels like Comedy Central.

To Croonquist, the in-law jokes seemed like a natural routine after living through one comical culture-clash moment after another: She is half-black, half-Swedish, grew up Roman Catholic and married into a Jewish family.
Wow, that sounds like a wealth of material right there.

So does the mother-in-law have a legitimate case? I think this line says it all:
Attorney Gary L. Bostwick, an expert in First Amendment law who isn't involved in the case, said suing a comedian is often difficult because courts tend to rule that it should be obvious they are joking.
Makes sense to me. What do you think? If a comedian marries into your family, is that pretty much a cue that you'd better grow a thicker skin and ramp up your sense of humor? Or does the mother-in-law have a point? Make your case in the comments.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my former protege C-Rod.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A New Urbanism Review...for Later

I had a brief piece of business down by SMU this morning, and, with a little time to kill on the way back, I decided to check out the new Park Lane development across Central Expressway from NorthPark mall. I'd read a lot about it as it was going up, and since there were NOW OPEN banners up, it seemed like a good time to take a long drive and short stroll (once I'm a little more healed, it'll be the other way around) through the place and report back on it here.

But I guess the report will have to wait, as there's just not enough of the place done yet. A quick perusal of the directory (which I should have called up on my iPhone before I arrived) shows that there will eventually be a lot of things there, but right now it just seemed like a lot of downtowns (at least in cities that aren't named "New York" or "Chicago") on an average Sunday--big tall buildings and quiet, empty streets. (They're very clean empty streets, mind you, especially compared to the average downtown.)

So I'll have to come back to this one, literally and figuratively. The one thing i can say thus far is that the area does lack all but a small amount of what to me is an important New Urbanist amenity--close-in street parking. The bulk of the parking is relegated to a bunch of giant garages (this morning, of course, I had my pick of spaces, but I could see it getting crowded when the place builds out a bit more). There are a few street spaces here and there (which require parallel parking instead of the more common diagonal variety), but, by and large, you can't drive right up to your intended store and park there, which is a shame.

Still, I need to see this place again in a few months when it's more vital. I'll do a true review at that time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another First Day Primer

Today was the first day of school for both the public schools and the college. I never visit the former on Day One (too much chaos), but I have some extra responsibilities at the latter this semester, so I spent a good bit of the day there.

Was it successful? I'd say so. Here now are some random thoughts from today:
  • Parking is always a circus on the first day, but I knew that, unlike (hopefully) any other semester, I had a (bum) leg up on nearly everyone else because of my handicap placard. Though I would have been happy with any handicapped place, I was quite happy to get one of my usual places--front row, in the shade of a big tree.

  • When I needed a copy machine, I didn't have to wait more than a few minutes for it, and nobody else who needed it came up until I was a few minutes away from being done.

  • Because of that, I go into tomorrow (one of my big days of class and ensembles) with all my syllabi and handouts copied and music ready to pass out.

  • The bookstore did not have the item I was looking for, but it was nice to see that, if it had, the line would have been extremely short.

  • Even though the day went longer than Mondays usually have for a while, I left campus with energy to spare.
I'd call this one a winner.

Besides, it's hard to help not feeling good on the first day of a new semester. As I said in a first-day post three years ago,
There's always something about the first day of school. So much promise in the new year. It's a tabula rasa, and there's always the chance that, no matter what happened in the past, a student, or a student group, or even an entire club can remake itself in a new image. Everyone's football team is undefeated; everyone's band has a shot at a sweepstakes; not a single student has gone to detention yet (though the cynic in me wonders how long that record stands unbroken at various schools); even the Least Important Stuff That Gets Talked About the Most (i.e. standardized test scores) starts out the year unblemished. Even as I get caught up in the "return to the grind" elements of things (all the driving between schools, wearing long pants in 104-degree weather, thirteen-hour teaching days), I can stop for a moment to reflect in the freshness of it all.
And while a lot of the above might apply more to the public schools, the first day is, if anything, even more vibrant at the college, probably because nearly everyone is there on their own terms. They may not be looking forward to every class they take, but at least they (almost always) chose their course of study.

To all my fellow educators: If this was your first day too, I hope it went as well as mine did. Feel free to chime in about it no matter what.

Farewell to a most unusual summer: As I've said before, this was one of the most "different" summers I've ever had. The knee surgery alone would have probably propelled it into this category, I think, but it was the weeks after that which were really strange--two weeks of almost complete boredom (while I was stuck at home, unable to drive) followed by two weeks of almost constant activity (fraternity convention and jazz camp). The fact that i had to re-learn so many things that I had previously taken for granted was an interesting experience as well, and I'm happy that the whole thing has been pretty much a constant upward arc. I still have a ways to go, but I'm happy that, as the busy part of the year resumes, I'm getting back to the regular way (and pace) of doing things.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

All Jokes Aside, I Hope She's Reunited with Her Instrument Soon

Q: What's the difference between a violin and a viola?
A: The viola burns longer.*
(classic musicians' joke)
Pity the poor violist. Of all the instrumental performers in the orchestra or band, the violist may have a tougher existence than any other. It's not easy to distinguish one from the violin, especially at a great distance; it's the only instrument that regularly plays in the alto clef, which limits the literature available to it (especially the "fun" books; I can't tell you the number of times that a violist came into the store where I used to work and left disappointed because Aladdin and Star Wars were published for nearly every instrument except theirs); and they probably get picked on more than any other instrument, even considering the wealth of instrumental humor out there. (The joke at the top of this post is not the worst one made at violists' expense; this one is: " Q: What do violists use for birth control? A: Their personalities.")

So, while this would have been Just Plain Wrong no matter who it happened to, I felt particularly bad for a local musician who had one of the worst fates that could befall an instrumentalist happen to her a little over a week ago: Her instrument was stolen:
Claire Garza's viola stands for good and beauty. She used it to soothe patients in nursing homes and hospitals and to teach music to children.

Someone stole the viola Friday from her Swiss Avenue apartment in Old East Dallas. But maybe the burglar would have reconsidered if he had known how Garza employed the viola.

Garza, 27, said she thinks the thief came in through a locked apartment window. A violin and a DVD player also were stolen, she said.

But the viola, estimated to be worth $30,000, became the focal point.

Garza's high school viola teacher sold it to her, and she had used it to play more than 100 concerts in nursing homes and hospitals all over Dallas.

"It was a very special thing to have an instrument that used to belong to my teacher," she said. "It was heartbreaking for me to have to tell him it got stolen."
Didja catch that, petty thief? Not only did you steal a valuable piece of equipment and the tool of someone's trade, but she used it to do some real good in this city. And if that's not enough to make you feel bad, try this on for size:
Garza graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and soon helped start a series of educational programs for at-risk children called the Charles Barr Concerts for Head Start. The series is named for her boyfriend, who was killed in a bicycle accident a few years ago.
I had a student whose baritone sax was stolen out of his truck while at dinner one time, and it was definitely devastating. Those of us who play music forge a special bond with our instruments, and in this case, on top of the emotional distress, it sounds like Garza was really using her gifts for the greater good. I really hope the thief gets caught, but I hope even more that the viola gets returned.

Garza hasn't been taking this sitting down, either; you can read here about all the different steps she's taken to try and entice the guilty party to return the instrument, up to and including setting up and publicizing a couple of anonymous drop-off points.

I haven't read any updates on this story since Wednesday, but I'll certainly pass them on as they come in. I think this is a situation that, when it happens to one musician, we all kind of take it personally.

*Having worked at a music store that burned down, it's entirely possible that this joke is actually true.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another School Has Disbanded Their Band

I first read about this in a column by Selena Roberts in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated; it's a story that's becoming all too familiar in recent years, and I hate to see it happen again: Florida International University has cut not only its marching band, but the cheerleading squad as well! I can't find a link for Roberts' story on the SI site, but here's something from a South Florida TV station:
What's a college football or basketball game without spirited cheerleaders and a raucous marching band? That's what plenty of people are asking themselves after Florida International University eliminated its cheerleading squad on [June 24]. The Golden Panther Marching Band was cut earlier [that] week.

The elimination of the cheerleading squad and marching band was part of a plan to cut $1 million from FIU's athletic budget for the coming year.

"It's our lifestyle, it's what we love to do, and to have it taken away from us, it's sad to our hearts," said cheerleader Jenny Mesa.

Other moves, including layoffs and other reductions, will be required as well. FIU's athletic budget was to be around $16 million.
I also found a link to last spring's impassioned plea for people to sign a petition to spare the band, but all the clamor fell on (pardoning the pun?) deaf ears.

FIU hasn't had a band all that long--just since 2002, the same year they started football. But since the school moved up to Division I-A in 2005, it appears to fancy itself a major player with the major state schools--Florida, Florida State and Miami--as its perceived rivals. (I should note that FIU plays in the same conference with my alma mater, North Texas, and, while a lot of us made fun of this school we'd never heard of--and continue to get it confused with another conference rival, Florida Atlantic--it does have to be grudgingly noted that the school has beaten UNT several times in the past few years.) The school is opening a new stadium (which I guess won't need a "band section" now), and it made waves by hiring Isiah Thomas as its basketball coach recently, but when the budget axe fell, it was the non-athletic student groups that were the first to go.

As I said, this has happened a few times before--at least once a year, to be precise. In 2007, we were talking about this situation at Duquesne University, and last year, it was Nevada. And what FIU's band had in common with the other two schools is what I consider to be a fatal flaw in its setup: The band was under the organizational and financial auspices of the athletic department, rather than the music department. The group's director, Carla Geiger, is listed as both an associate director of bands and Director of Athletic Bands, which means she probably still has a job in the music department. But according to Roberts, the band got one-fourth of its funding from the athletic department, and the athletic director's decision was evidently enough to pull the plug.

As I said in an earlier post, if I were a dean or music department chair in a similar situation, I would work to get the marching band more closely under the music department's umbrella; after all, the group has multiple functions: Spirit organization, a chance for non-music majors to continue with music at the college level, and a important lab for music education majors. (The group's drum major was quoted as being a music-ed major; how will he and his fellow students gain the experience that they will need for something that they're bound to encounter while teaching?) If nothing else, it might be best for a school to fund the band the way we did at UNT--through something called student service fees, which every student paid along with tuition every semester. The different groups--besides the band, other groups seeking funds included athletics, the student health center, KNTU, the newspaper, etc.--made their presentations each year for a particular piece of the pie, and a committee voted on the final funding for each of them.

So what will a Division I school be like without a band? (This is unprecedented in the modern era, so we really don't know.) One FIU athletic official envisions music being piped in, such as "rap and hip-hop...without the dirty lyrics" (which doesn't give them much of a choice. And it sure seems like a lame homecoming parade without a band. Will they regret this decision? One would certainly think so...

This will never happen (because of the distance involved, if nothing else). but it's an intriguing idea: Suppose my alma mater, UNT, which plays at FIU in November, decided to take its annual out-of-town trip to that game? It would certainly be embarrassing to the host school to have a visiting band during halftime without one of their own to follow it. But maybe it would remind them of what they just cast aside.

I hope I don't have to write Post #4 on this subject next year. (If Roberts' column ever goes up on the Web, I'll link to it here. And mad props to her for noting that she, like yours truly, marched with a baritone sax in high school.)

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Nope, not a Sgt. Pepper reference here. But the feat that took place on August 22, 1989 had the crowd screaming as loudly as they would have done at a Beatles concert. I'm talking about Nolan Ryan's 5000th strikeout, which happened before the home Texas Rangers crowd in Arlington.

The Dallas Morning News' Texas Rangers Blog posts a video of the big event, and asks the question, "Were you there?" You bet I was:
I sure was there--[...]we had a group of about six. (For us, it was especially sweet that Rickey Henderson was the victim; contrast the arrogant remarks he made when he broke Lou Brock's base-stealing record with the always-humble comments of Ryan, who deflected the bulk of the credit to his teammates.)

Somewhere in my personal archvies, I still have that commemorative certificate that the team passed out a week or so later; it included a slot in which you could insert your ticket stub.

The interesting thing about Rangers games in the days when Ryan was pitching was that you tended to time your ticket purchases for the games in which he was expected to start, because you never knew what might happen. Most of Nolan's starts sold out, whereas the attendance at some other games was average at best, depending on how hot it was outside.
Since I didn't get to see one of Ryan's two no-hitters as a Ranger, and his 300th win came on the road (though my sister and I paid way too much money for nosebleed seats--it might have actually been Row Z--to try and watch him win it a week earlier), this night stands out as my personal highlight among several great years of watching, as I described Ryan at the time, an artist at the height of his craft. (A link to the DMN story from the morning after the game may be found here.)

It's great to see Ryan back with the Rangers as team president, and I'd like to think that his work behind the scenes is playing a small but important part in the team's success this season.

What is your favorite sports memory, from any point in your life?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yet Another Update on Me

I went to the orthopedist today for the first time in six weeks. As much as I've noticed the dramatic improvement in things over that period of time, it was brought into really sharp focus when I compared how I feel now with the last time I sat on that examining table.

So here's the latest: In the next few weeks, I'll be working towards two milestones: Gradually weaning myself off the knee brace, and being able to drive my own car again (to say that I miss Kevmobile 2.0 is definitely an understatement, as it's been nearly two months now since I drove her). I'll also begin strength training for the knee and its various accompanying muscles, as well as "gait training"--learning to walk normally again. (Seeing as how, in the years since I stopped being in marching band, I've developed a sort of shuffle--the heels of my shoes wear out more quickly than the other parts--it was always my intent to use this rehab process as a way to re-train myself in this area.)

The visit was short and sweet; it's always nice to hear "Everything's looking really good" from a doctor. I'm back again in six weeks, when things may be approaching a "normal" that I haven't experienced since mid-April.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Thursday Cornucopia

All the random stuff that's too short for a blog post and/or I forgot to tweet about:
  • A few years back, I had a weird discussion with a friend about the offbeat idea (discovered at Dave Barry's Blog) of a car engine that runs on urine (a resource that's pretty hard to deplete, right?). Now some university researchers in Ohio have gotten pretty close to that concept.

  • An elephant at a safari park in England has learned to play the harmonica (video here).

  • A Florida man who was arrested for downloading kiddie porn has an unusual alibi: He blames it on his cat. (If that were true, the cat was obviously looking for "kitty porn" and clicked the wrong link.)

  • An award-winning English sheep breeder decided to get married in a wedding dress made of wool from her own flock.

  • PETA is at it again: Now the group is referring to fish as "sea kittens" on its website, evidently in an effort to make them sound cute and cuddly and repel people from eating them.

  • A St. Louis-area Burger King is apologizing after a woman was booted from the store because her kid came in there barefoot. The only problem was that the kid in question was six months old.

  • And finally, hot on the heels of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House will stage an opera whose libretto is being composed on Twitter. (Maybe they can call it Cosi fan tweetie.)
It's still a busy week; I'll try to have more up tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Back, Pudge!

I tweeted about this last night, but didn't have time to do a full-blown post until now. I actually saw the news on a screen crawl on the TV at the place where I was having a quick dinner, and I couldn't believe what I was reading: Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is back with the Rangers!

The 13-time Gold Glove catcher, who grew up in the Rangers system and starred with the team from 1991-2002, was acquired from the Houston Astros for a minor-league pitcher and the proverbial "player to be named later." In the short run, having Pudge here fills a void on the roster with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the disabled list, but in the long run, his acquisition marks not only the return of a fan favorite but also a seasoned veteran who was with the Rangers in their previous trips to the playoffs. With this young team making a serious run in that direction this season, his presence in the clubhouse will be as valuable as it will be on the field.

While Taylor Teagarden is now the starting catcher and will receive the bulk of playing time, Pudge is expected to catch two or three times a week; I think he realizes at this point in his career that he can be happy in a backup role as long as the team is winning. (Oddly enough, Teagarden, who grew up in Carrollton, considered Rodriguez his idol when growing up, and now has the only-in-your-dreams opportunity of having said idol be his backup.)

If memory serves, I was in Arlington covering a game for KNTU when Pudge got called up, and he made his first start a few nights later. Needless to say, I enjoyed a lot of games with him on the mound, either on TV or in the stands. Had I been a blogger just a few months earlier, I'm sure I would have posted some impassioned pleas for the Rangers not to let Pudge leave via free agency as he did in late '02. And now it's great to see him back.

So welcome back, Pudge! Here's hoping you can retire in a Ranger uniform.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Audition Day

Spent all day at the college, and there's still some work to be done. Blogging will resume tomorrow, with any luck.

(It's too bad that Blogger doesn't have a character count; I bet this post would be short enough to go on Twitter. I'll probably post something there before the night is done.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm Reconsidering My Idea After Actually Seeing It In Action

I have a lot of CDs. The vast majority of them are jazz, but there are plenty of other genres in there as well. And although I know of a few people who actually try to separate their CDs by musical genre, I'm not one of them.

For me, it's alphabetical order all the way; Charlie Parker right next to Pantera, Erykah Badu right after J.S. Bach. And I often used to say that, if I owned a CD store, everything would be in alphabetical order as well, especially back in the days when I listened to a lot more rock music and used to get aggravated at some of those (now defunct) mall chains that would split their rock into (to my mind) meaningless subcategories. If I'm looking for a specific CD, I don't want to have to look through Rock, Alternative and Post-Modern (huh?) in order to figure out whether or not it's in stock. Out of that frustration grew the idea that maybe a CD store should be stocked like my own shelves: Alphabetically, without regard to genre.

I felt that way until this afternoon, when someone actually did that.

I had a chance today to visit the new Entertainmart store in my area (it's the place I riffed on a few weeks ago for having a Santa Claus balloon in its parking lot to celebrate its grand opening). It's a new concept from Mark Kane, the guy who founded CD Warehouse and Movie Trading Company (and later sold both for big profits), and run by his three nephews. Just picture those two stores glommed together in a much bigger location (this one took over an old Ultimate Electronics store) and you'll get the idea. (The five-store chain was profiled by Cheryl Hall of the Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago.)

So it didn't take very long to realize, while browsing the CD selection, that they'd done exactly what I'd always said I'd do: Arrange their CDs in alphabetical order (the only thing that gets a separate section is movie/TV/show soundtracks). And at least on first impression, the idea works better in theory than in practice.

For one thing, if you're looking for a specific genre (let's say jazz), you have to go down every aisle if you want to browse all the offerings. While this might make for a nice, healthy walk, it also takes up a lot more time than it would if you didn't have to cover quite so much real estate.

It is amusing to see some widely divergent artists side-by-side (Miles Davis next to Paul Davis? Joe Henderson right after a group called Hellyeah?), but something else came to mind as well: If you have kids, and you're trying to regulate the music they're listening to, the genre-less shelving makes that difficult. I did a little test to see if, say, some of the popular Christian performers turned up right next to artists whose CDs had "Parental Advisory" stickers on them. Sure enough, Jars of Clay was right next to Ja Rule, and the Dead Kennedys turn up in very close proximity to both dc Talk and Delirious, so that might be an issue for some.

On the other hand, I can see the benefit--assuming you have a lot of time--to wandering the entire section and, in the process of looking for something, find another completely different CD of a different genre that you might have never considered before.

I didn't quite wander the entire section today; as I said, it's huge, and there's space for a lot more. Still, I hope the company does well and Kane can strike gold a third time. His previous two concepts have certainly done well.

So how do you stack your CD's--alphabetically, by genre, or just completely random? And would you enjoy shopping an alphabetically-stocked CD store more or less than the more conventional model?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I, Mutant?

I read an interesting article last night that hit home with me; it discussed a certain group of people who get by just fine with only six hours of sleep a night. Since that club includes myself on (way too many) occasions, I was intrigued by their findings.

It turns out that a genetic mutation might be responsible for this:
The finding doesn't appear likely to help people with insomnia. Still, it "opens a door" to greater understanding of why people sleep as long as they do, said study co-author Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.

Armed with this research, scientists may be able to eventually develop safe ways to tinker with people's bodies so that they can sleep less, she said. "At the same time, we'll feel fine."

According to Fu, about 5 percent of people get by on six hours or less of sleep a night without any ill effects. "They're perfectly fine, and they don't have a problem," she said. "For them, six hours is like eight hours for me."

For most people, however, eight or 8.5 hours of sleep are best, she said.
Heh. There are nights when I don't even get home 8.5 hours before I'm supposed to get up the next morning. As I've told people for years, if I was one of those people who needed eight hours, a lot of things wouldn't get done.

So am I one of the "mutants" described in the story? I guess it depends on your definition of "without any ill effects." Sure, there are times when I can get sleepy during the day if I haven't slept a lot the night before, but there are external factors at play as well (such as length of the workday, temperature of the room, and the fact that my job often requires me to sit in a small room for long periods of time). Still, if the lack of eight hours a night had been a big problem, one would think I would have noticed some ill effects (far beyond wanting a nap) by now.

I'd like to sleep more, but I sometimes get distracted (especially here on the computer), and sometimes there just isn't enough day for all the things I need to do. Still, with the fall semester coming up soon, I'm going to work as best I can to split the difference and try for seven hours on most nights.

How many hours a night do you usually sleep, and how does that stack up with the number of hours you'd prefer to sleep? As always, the "comment" button is below.

Friday, August 14, 2009

That's Dr. Breeden to You Now

Something very cool will take place at UNT tonight: Professor Emeritus Leon Breeden, who helped bring the One O'Clock Lab Band (and, by extension, UNT itself) to prominence during his tenure from 1959-1981, will receive an honorary doctorate during the university's commencement ceremonies. From this blog post at the UNT jazz website:
UNT Professor Emeritus Leon Breeden, Director of the One O'Clock Lab Band and Chair of the Jazz Studies program for 22 years, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The honorary degree will be conferred at the Doctoral Commencement and Hooding Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, at 7 p.m. in Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center on UNT's Denton campus.
I can think of nobody more deserving of this honor. I've mentioned Breeden on this blog in the past, most notably when he performed with the Original Texas jazz Orchestra a couple of years ago on his 86th birthday. He's a classy individual and a great ambassador for UNT, jazz education and jazz in general.

Congratulations, Dr. Breeden! (More information on Breeden may be found on his Wikipedia page, which "a little bird" just edited to include news of the doctorate.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One of My Favorite Jazz Guitarists Is 55 Years Young

Happy birthday to Pat Metheny, who's not only one of my favorite--if not my very favorite--jazz guitarists, but also one of my favorite composers and improvisers as well.

And talk about a guy who's aging well. Can Pat really be 55? He barely looks a day over 40, if that. As I noted at this time five years ago, Pat has the Eternal Youth Gene pretty well locked up:
He's been recording for nearly thirty years, so I guess that adds up, but he just looks so young and his music definitely has this eternally-youthful quality about it. Pat hails from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, Missouri, and a lot of his tunes reflect that typical Midwestern sensibility. If I had to describe it, it would be something like "driving through the cornfield on a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the windows down, when all is right with the world." I love the sound he gets on his guitar, and my spirit is buoyed by the sense of optimism reflected in so much of his music.
Five years later, I've got nothing but dittos for what was said above. I've seen one more live performance by Pat in that time, and he continues to awe and inspire.

I'm also intrigued by his upcoming Orchestrion Project that's slated to debut in 2010. As Metheny himself notes, his fairly extensive description of the project on his website yields as many questions as answers, but if I'm interpreting it correctly, he's going to be playing solo concerts on guitar that will trigger a variety of electronic instruments which will give him the power of a full orchestra backing him up.

So once again, happy birthday, Pat! Thank you for all the music, and may there be much more for many years to come.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The iTunes Shuffle, Part 4

OK, I haven't done this in a while, and--with 25 days worth of music on my computer, it's bound to come out differently than the last time. You probably know the drill for this one, but if not, let's explain:

1. Open up the music player on your computer (or your iPod, possibly).
2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
3. Hit the "shuffle" command.
4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing...

So here's the latest installment:
Denis DiBlasio: Just the Way You Look Tonight
Stevie Wonder: SIr Duke
Bob Mintzer Big Band: Spectrum
Charlie Parker: Laird Baird
Basia: There's a Tear
Vorcza: Adios Pinochet
Tomasz Stanko Quartet: Kattorna
Carla Bley (with Steve Swallow): Pretend You're In Love
Tomasz Stanko: Whistle Walk
Steve Wiest Big Band: Cheek to Cheek

So I always talk about how many of the Shuffle artists I've seen live. The number is smaller this time--only three out of nine--but the associations are closer: I've seen DiBlasio, Mintzer and Wiest (the latter being a former schoolmate) live on many occasions, and I've performed with all three of them. I've also seen a single member of Vorcza--drummer Gabe Jarrett--at a jam session in Vermont a year ago. (I would have seen Steve Wonder at his recent local stop if the tickets had been cheaper.) There were no teaching aids per se this time, and one artist--Stanko--made a repeat appearance, as often happens in these things. (I should mention that I would really like to see both Stanko and Bley in a live setting.)

As always, feel free to do this as well and post your results in the comments to this post. Maybe I'll do another one before too long, since I notice that I managed to skip this entirely in 2007; besides, I have so much music on my computer now that there's almost no chance something will repeat...or is there?

Previous iTunes Shuffles:
Part 1 (1/13/05)
Part 2 (9/24/06)
Part 3 (1/8/08)

Monday, August 10, 2009

I Must Be Having Fun, Because Time's Flying

I was talking with a colleague at the college this afternoon, and I think it hit both of us at the same time: School starts in two weeks! How could that be? Where did the summer go?

I know where a lot of it went, of course. The spring semester in the public schools didn't end until a few days into June, at right about the same time that the summer session began at the college. June was spent getting ready for surgery, having surgery, and recovering from same. That went into July (I can still remember how immobile I was on the Fourth), and, right about the time I was feeling better, it was time to go to my out-of-town convention, which segued immediately into Jazz Camp. By the time that let out, it was only a week until August...and here we are.

As I've said, it's been the least "summery" summer that I've probably ever had, especially in terms of getting to do my typical summertime activities. Out-of-town trips, save for convention? Nope. Swimming? Nuh-uh. Concerts? Not a one (again save for convention and--duh-- Jazz Camp). Rangers games? Only on TV so far, though I'll be using up my annual tickets in September, when I can likely fit into a stadium seat with little discomfort. Movies? One; I finally saw the new Harry Potter a few weekends ago (thanks, AMC, for having the handicapped row). I guess I'll have to find a way to pack a bit of "summer" stuff into the fall.

How was your summer this year? Was it pretty routine, or quite a deviation from the norm? Talk to me in the comments; it's been kinda quiet there recently.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Sunday Smorgasbord

A random collection of things that I've run across while catching up on my weird news sites:I have a few posts to catch up on, which hopefully will happen in the next day or so.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Worried About Once-Weekly Pickup? What a Load of Garbage...

I was greeted at lunch today with a puzzling story in the paper: People in Dallas are concerned that, because of budget cuts, the city of Dallas is looking to cut twice-weekly garbage pickuo down to once a week.

Not being a resident of Dallas proper, I guess I never paid much attention to this before, but why in the world was garbage being picked up twice in the first place? Every place that I've lived, from the time I first remember such things (kindergarten? First grade? Those were two different places, by the way), has "only" had garbage pickup once a week. What makes Dallas so different?

Only two possible reasons come to mind: 1) People are throwing too much stuff away, or 2) They need to be recycling more. (Or maybe this is just two ways of stating the same thing...)

Granted, I live in a much smaller-than-average household, but still, informal surveying of my own neighborhood seems to indicate that, as a whole, nobody's trash bin is full to overflowing every week; the biggest week for trash is (obviously) right after Christmas, but even then, some people space out their throwaways so that the theoretical bad guys might not get the idea that they've gotten too much new stuff. And again, going back to childhood, I don't recall any other area where once-weekly pickup wasn't sufficient. What exactly are folks throwing away out there?

Not only will this move save gas and roads, but it will allow the city to cut its budget without laying anyone off. And it will also reverse what to me are some really badly-run programs in the first place. Like this:
"Under the old [twice-weekly system], your garbage was picked up twice a week, and your recycling was picked up twice a month, but not on the same day your garbage was," [Councilman Ron Natinsky] said.

It was confusing to some residents, and recycling rates suffered as a result.
You think? The easiest way to get people to not recycle is to make it a lot of extra work for people. Here's one more bad idea that's going away:
Where once residents had to separate the paper from the plastic from the cans, they now can put it all into one big blue 90-gallon bin that is collected on the same day as the garbage and sorted at the city's recycling center.
Funny, I've been doing that ever since I've lived in a house. It's good to see Dallas finally entering the 20th century on this one.

Am I being overly harsh here? What reason could there possibly be for needing trash picked up more than once a week? Enlighten me (or agree with me) in the comments.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Meet My New Role Model

An outstanding Metroplex-area citizen was profiled today in the papers and on the radio. His name is Jack Borden, he's a practicing attorney from Weatherford, and he was named "Outstanding Oldest Worker of 2009" by a nonprofit group that's dedicated to seniors in the workforce.

But the term "senior" means different things to different people. So just how old is Jack, anyway? Well, he's 101. And that's not a typo.

By the way, he barely came in under the wire for this award; you have to be 100 or older to qualify! (And the linked story points out that he's not even the oldest lawyer in Texas; there are three living members of the state bar who could rightfully call Borden a "kid.")

Check this guy out; he's amazing:
Borden reads without corrective eyewear and hears without an electronic aid. Though he needs a walker to get around, he regularly serves as a greeter at the First Baptist Church of Weatherford, about 30 miles west of Fort Worth.

He also co-hosts a local radio show on Parker County history.

Feeling, however, that he would be unfairly blamed if he were involved in an automobile accident, Borden has given up driving. Mostly.

"I still pick up my dry cleaning on Saturdays," he said.

He arrives at his office at 6:30 every morning and leaves a little after 6 p.m. In deference to a bout of pneumonia four years ago, he now takes a 45-minute nap just before noon.

Reluctantly bowing to prevailing standards, he comes to work on Fridays casually dressed.
Radio show? Casual Fridays? I want to be this guy when I grow up. (OK, I could do without the 6:30 office arrival, and I've never had much use for dry cleaning, but still, this sounds like a man after my own heart.)

I've made my own opinion on retirement known in an earlier post:
I think I've said this before, but, as a musician, I have no intention of ever fully retiring. I have older friends in their 70's (and beyond) who still gig regularly, and I've been blessed with the chance to perform with some amazing musicians (Clark Terry and Jimmy Heath) who were nearing 80 at the time. I've often joked that every musician's secret fantasy is to die on the bandstand, at a ripe old age and after a really good solo, and that's not too far from what I'd actually like to happen a long time from now. But in the meantime, this creative person sees no reason to stop creating just because the clock seems to tell other people to stop working.
While Borden may jokingly reply to those inquiring as to the secret of a long life ("Not dying," he says), he also waxes philosophical at the end of the article:
"I believe that God has something for us to do, and he wants me to work to do some good," he said.

Besides, Borden added, "If I quit, I'll die. I know people who retire and two years later, they're gone."
Ahh yes, the Bear Bryant Syndrome. It's named for the legendary Alabama (and Texas A&M before that) football coach who died within a few months of his retirement, and, as referenced here, it may be one of the reasons that Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno have continued coaching for as long as they have. But it sounds like Jack Borden still has an awful lot to offer his community, so I say keep going; you're an inspiration to us all.

(Be sure and check out the timeline at the end of the DMN story on Borden; the world was quite a different place in 1908.)

I asked this question in the earlier post, but it's been a year and a half, so I'll ask it again: Do you plan to retire at a specific age (and if so, what age is that?), or do you intend to keep going as long as you can? Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Radio Sports FAIL

Tonight at dinner, one of my friends remarked that the rented car he was riding in on a recent roadtrip had satellite radio, and he was amused by the fact that there was a channel devoted to, of all things, NASCAR. We were all trying to imagine auto racing on radio, which just didn't sound too exciting: "He's turning left! And he's turning left again! And again!!"

From there, we got on a tangent about the other sports that don't lend themselves to radio. Here's the list we came up with:
  • Golf

  • Bowling

  • Fencing

  • Cricket (though, admittedly, this might be somewhat like baseball, and I listen to baseball on radio all the time)

  • The Tour de France (though I offered that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen might be able to pull this off)

  • Cheerleading (yes, some people consider it a sport, and after watching an episode of Sport Science on TV last week showing that the impact of a cheerleader dropping to the ground from a high stunt is greater than someone being tackled by an NFL player, I'm inclined to agree)
UPDATE: I forgot to include boxing and tennis, both of which came up in our discussion.

We also noted that "mime" would be a terrible thing to experience on radio, even if it's not a sport (and even if it had play-by-play: "He's making a little box!").

So what did we forget? Any other sports that would translate badly to radio? Post them in the comments.

Monday, August 03, 2009

From Jerry Jones, An Offer I Might Not Be Able to Refuse

Would you pay $29 for a Cowboys game at the new stadium this fall? Even if sitting down were not included in the deal? This is no longer just a rhetorical question:
Cowboys fans began buying up the new $29 Party Pass tickets this morning. Nuny Terango bought two and doesn't mind that it won't give him a seat. Much of the space is in decks and patios. He'll be in the 180-thousand square feet standing room only sections. The Cowboys hope to sell 35000 Party Pass tickets.
I think I'd go for that idea. I've watched Cowboys Stadium go up in bits and pieces over the past few years, either from Division and Collins streets on trips to UTA, or from the upper deck of Rangers Ballpark during games, and two things have always gone through my head at the time: 1) That place is gonna be really cool when it opens, and 2) I'll never be able to afford a game. But $29 I can handle, and, once my knee has healed a bit more, standing up for three hours might not be so bad.

I've had a different relationship with the Cowboys than I have with the Rangers since I moved to the Dallas area for college, and it mostly has to do with physical presence at the games--driven by prices, of course. I go to 5-10 Rangers games a year (it's all being saved for fall this season because of my injury), but, despite watching nearly every Cowboys game on TV, I'm lucky to make only one game in person (if that) a year because of price (and even that's slacked off lately; if memory serves, the last time I was there, Barry Switzer was on the sideline).

When Rangers Ballpark opened, I made three vows: I'd be there for opening night; I'd be at the All-Star Game when it was held in Arlington; and I'd be in attendance at the first playoff game that would ever be held there. And all three of those things came to fruition within the first few years. But I'd never held any such hopes for Cowboys Stadium, because I knew it would be priced out of my range. But maybe Jerry's latest venture will be my ticket in.

So the $29 thing might be my cup of tea, although I'd hope they'd keep the Party Passers from partying too much; I wouldn't want to stand there for an hour after some drunk person threw up on my shoe.

According to KRLD's poll, my being agreeable to this idea puts me in a distinct minority. What about you? Would you pay nearly thirty bucks to stand up at a game if it meant you'd get to experience the new stadium. Sound off both in the comments here and at KRLD's poll if you want.

The happy day has arrived: A while back, I mentioned that blogger Ann Althouse became engaged to a gentleman named Meade, whom she met in the comments section of her blog. Today, after much speculation and a long roadtrip, the two were married on a mountaintop in Colorado. Althouse made the announcement, fittingly enough, in a comment to one of her blog posts.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

All Caught Up, Lazy Summer Edition

As promised, I managed to finish all of the past week's pending posts today. And whenever I do that, I link to those posts, so that they'll get the frontpage attention they deserve and not ending up being written for nought. So here's what I've been working on today:
  • Here's a young jazz artist who's worth your time: Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman.

  • I also discovered a hilarious viral video series this week.

  • And as I ended the busiest part of the summer, I noticed that relaxation became easier as my healing process has progressed.
There are a few more topics in the pipe, so now that I'm caught up, I should be able to start at least one of them tomorrow.