Friday, April 30, 2010

This Week is TAKS-ing to My Wallet Once Again

Since it's the week of standardized testing in Texas schools, I posed the question on Facebook: Which April event is more evil--Tax Day or TAKS week? (My set of responders--mostly teachers--were almost unanimous in declaring the state tests as being even worse than opening up your wallet to Uncle Sam. (But for those in my area of teaching--at least the public school part--I have to open up my wallet either way, since I'm teaching maybe half of my private students ths week, although that's an improvement over years past.)

What say you? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Next Thing I Need to Arrange Is a Nap

It's nearly four in the morning, and I'm awake. And I'm not getting up early, either; I'm still up from last night.

So what am I doing up this late? Arranging music. I have a few things that absolutely must be read today, and I've been putting them off until this week (since I won't see a lot of my private students thanks to state standardized testing). And I knew that I was slow on the music notation software, but I had no idea I was this slow.

The good news: The tune I've been working on since midnight is finished and the parts are printed out. The less-good news: I have another one to complete in the morning.

I'm glad my livelihood doesn't depend on this, since I write and arrange at a glacial pace. (They say the hardest part of practicing is opening the case; the hardest part of writing has to be sitting down and opening the software or putting pencil to paper.)

I feel good about getting this done. Now let's hope that what I wrote sounds at least as good, if not much, much better, than the way it sounded on the sequencer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Immig-Rant 2.0

My blogging time is limited today, but I had to chime in about the tough new immigration bill signed into law by Arizona's governor this afternoon. This whole thing brings up a few questions that I'd love to see answered:
  • Why do so many people appear to care so much about the so-called rights of people who are breaking our laws simply by virtue of being here?

  • And why are so many "activist" groups rallying for criminals' rights simply because they happen to share an ethnicity with the criminals? (It's way past time for this nation to move beyond race.)
My take on illegal immigration is can be summed up by the signs that appear throughout Six Flags and other amusement parks: "LINE JUMPERS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE PARK." You want to come here? Get in line like everyone else. Of course, the ridiculous bureaucratic policies that have people waiting a long time to become legal citizens should be streamlined, but people also have to realize that we'll never be able to let everyone in who wants to come here, especially the high number of refugees from the nearly-failed nation to our south. It's too bad some of the people who would sneak in here can't put some of that time and energy into reforming their own corrupt government.

And again, please stop it with the tired argument of "illegals are just doing jobs that Americans refuse to do." With around 10% unemployment in our nation right now, and a job market for high school/college students that's been abysmal for nearly a decade, I think there are plenty of people who would be more than happy to work at McDonald's or mow lawns. We can help out the rest of the world when we have money or resources to spare, but we have to take care of our own first.

I don't go off on things on this blog like I used to (if nothing else, I do have limited blogging time, and I like to talk about positive stuff as much as I can), but sometimes, things just have to be said.

A review of what should be a great jazz concert I'm about to attend will follow tomorrow.

(My original "Immig-Rant" from 2006 may be found here.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

'Book 'em, Kevo!

(If you're my friend on Facebook, you can probably skip this one. See ya tomorrow!)

As I expected, it's taking a little while for me to properly organize my admittedly meager time spent online since I joined Facebook a few weeks ago. It hasn't hit the blog as hard as it's hit Twitter (and maybe I just need to link Twitter with my Facebook feed, even though some of my status updates are more than 140 characters long), but there have been times where I've been even more behind on blog posts than usual, if that's even possible.

But sometimes, these worlds do merge; there are things I post on Facebook that might be interesting to my blog readers, so let me recap a few of them here:
  • This may be a rerun, but I'm going to have to do a full post on why cars and trucks don't mix on the highways. My trip to Waco last weekend convinced me of this beyond any doubt.

  • Is there any roadside treat in Central Texas that's better than a kolache from the Czech Stop?

  • Situation: My school district's audition music is only available online this year, putting the onus on the students to print it out. Problem: First student of the day on Monday hasn't printed his copy yet. Solution: We go over the music by reading it off the screen of my iPhone. Gotta love modern technology!

  • I was getting very frustrated with one of the tires on my car this week; the "low tire pressure" light was coming on every morning since Sunday, and I couldn't see or hear evidence of a leak. I brought it in yesterday, and we found the culprit: The smallest of nails.

  • The nail-in-the-tire story spawned another one from a while back: The last time I lived in an apartment complex, they spent over a year replacing the roof on all the units, so there were stray roofing nails all over the parking lot. One of them found its way into my tire, so I took it in to be fixed. A while later, the tire guy called me and said, "Well..., sir, it turns out that you didn't have a nail in your tire--you had *five* of them."

  • And finally, one from Facebook itself: My reaction thus far to the new Facebook terminology of "liking" a band/business/whatever (vs. the old "becoming a fan of" said entity) ranges from "meh" to "that's a silly idea."
As I said a while back, I promise that what I blog here won't be Facebook-driven all that often, but I will do these little updates every now and then.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Giving In to Their Bass-er Desires

Cool and unusual: Ten jazz double bassists onstage at the same time. Even cooler: One of them is Rufus Reid:

(This was the post-intermission special at the Baylor Jazz Ensemble concert last night. Needless to say, the whole concert was quite enjoyable, and during the bass group's two selections--a lush ballad and a playful romp on Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me"--they produced some unique sounds. Kudos to director Alex Parker for putting the whole thing together.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Travel Advisory

I'm going to Waco for a fraternity workshop this weekend. Can't wait to satisfy my Fazoli's fix while I'm there (it's been over a year now) and chill with the brothers. I'll also be seeing the Baylor Jazz Ensemble with special guest Rufus Reid tonight. Back sometime tomorrow.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday, Mom! As I mentioned the other day, she and her sister are celebrating together for the first time in eons; wish I could be there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A/C, or Not A/C: That is the Question

OK, I promise that what I post on Facebook won't always drive what I post here (though it may well have a lot of overlap with Twitter). But this seemed like a timely topic for both forums (and I've blogged about it here before), so here goes:

I posed this question today: "How long will I hold out before turning on the A/C in the house? It has yet to get above 78 in here--my usual spring/summer setting--even on the hottest afternoon."

The first response I got, from an old high school classmate, was "Are you green or broke?" I pointed out that it wasn't really either, but that I had managed to acclimate myself to 78 in the spring/summer and 68 in the winter. And I was quite surprised to find out that many people in my FB circle keep their houses at rather Arctic temperatures compared to mine. (73? 70? Really? I'd hate to pay their electric bills. Maybe I'm both green and broke compared to some of these folks.)

So feel free to place predictions on how long you think I can hold out before cranking up the A/C in Casa de Kev, as well as sharing the average late spring/summer temperature of your own domicile in the comments.

Blowing out the candles in a special way: Happy birthday to my Aunt Nora from Indiana, born a day before Tax Day and two days (and a year) before her younger sister, whom I call "Mom." This year, they're doing something unusual: Nora's in Houston visiting my folks, so the two sisters get to celebrate their birthdays in the same location for the first time in decades.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Just as yesterday was a good day in my personal history--celebrating seven years of blogging--today is a much more dubious anniversary: The first anniversary of my accident.

Rather than recount the entire tale, I'll direct those who may be new to this blog here, and if you want to follow the whole thing, click the tag at the bottom of this post called "The 'Accident of Gravity' Chronicles" and everything related to the accident and recovery periods should come up.

As I noted just a little while ago on Facebook, my "celebration" of the anniversary was capped off by something I didn't--couldn't--do a year ago at this time: Walk through my front door at day's end under my own power. And while I may not have hit the racquetball court yet, my knee is something that I don't really think about all that often. Life has pretty much returned to normal.

May there be a continuation of this "normal" for the foreseeable future.

Monday, April 12, 2010


It was seven years ago today that I started The Musings of Kev. I began blogging for several reasons: To have an outlet for creative writing; to vent about a few things in a larger forum; to satisfy the journalism bug that bit me in college (writing CD and concert reviews, among other things); and, well, because a lot of my friends were blogging at the time (I guess that's the "all the cool kids are doing it" line of reasoning).

I started out doing very short posts--things that would probably be Tweeted today. Eventually, the Blogger software went through a few updates, and suddenly, my posts had headlines, tags and so on. As I learned more and more about HTML, things like links and embedded videos would make their way into various posts. As I read more and more "A-list" bloggers, some of their styles inevitably crept into mine.

There have been a few pleasant surprises along the way: I never expected for this blog to get a hundred hits from all over the place in a single day, as has happened a few times when a post was linked to a prominent site (among the most-viewed posts are the one supporting the UNT stadium referendum and my review of the Maynard Ferguson tribute in St. Louis. And while I still have yet to receive the beloved "Instalanche" (a link from Glenn Reynolds' mega-blog Instapundit, I have been frontpaged by Althouse in a post about lolcats--something I discovered at Althouse in the first place.

And it has certainly been a pleasant surprise to occasionally meet people via blogging who have morphed into friends in real life; that was something I never expected when I first started putting my "random thoughts and rants" online.

Nowadays, my biggest challenge is finishing the posts that I start in a timely fashion. My teaching days are long, I occasionally still have work to do when I get home, and things like Twitter and, for the past week, Facebook, are competing for my online attention. But my commitment to this forum remains unwavering, even if I seem to get a lot of it done on the weekends (indeed, the only reason this post is going out so early is that the public schools have a holiday this morning).

Thank you for your attention and continued visits. I'll work hard to make what you read here worthy of your time.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

For Many of Us, This Program Was a Real Clunker

This morning, I attempted (along with the rest of the state of Texas, so it would seem) to take advantage of the government-sponsored "cash for clunkers" program that's not for cars, but rather for appliances. While my refrigerator, washer and dryer are still going strong (he types with crossed fingers), there's a dishwasher in my kitchen that's long past its prime. (What that means, of course, is that the dishwasher in my house is called "Kev," but let's not make any jokes about that dishwasher also being past his prime, OK?)

So my parents alerted me to this thing a few weeks ago, and it turns out that the Big Day was today. The idea was to go to the website and get on the rebate list; after that, you had two weeks to buy the new appliance starting on the 16th of this month, and you'd get an even bigger rebate if you managed to recycle the "clunker" in an approved manner. It sounded like a good deal, and, even though I knew a lot of people would be taking advantage of the program, it didn't hurt to try.

Looking back, this was probably doomed from the start as far as I was concerned. For one thing, the sign-up period didn't start until seven this morning, which gave me all of fifteen minutes to try and sign up before I had to leave for teaching. I don't have a computer in my public-school teaching (and this is one case where the iPhone in my pocket doesn't count, never mind the fact that it would be rude and unprofessional to keep using it during a lesson), and I knew that the program would probably be over by the time that I got home for my afternoon break.

Sure enough, I couldn't get on before I left; the website kept dropping connections left and right. (I felt like I was having flashbacks to the days when I was on dial-up.) And sure enough, when I got home, I found out that the program had already run out of money--all $23 million of it. They did have a waiting list, though, so I tried to get on that...and experienced the exact same problems--dropped connections and so on. Eventually, the link that was supposed to take me to the application form started defaulting to the main page; I was stuck in an endless loop. A quick check back to the site a while later showed that the waiting list was full as well.

So my question is, couldn't they have anticipated the increased traffic and come up with some extra server space for the day? I heard on the radio that people who tried to access the system by phone had just as many problems--pretty much a nonstop busy signal for hours on end. (Now I'm having flashbacks to college and the Saturday mornings I spent ordering concert tickets!) Sure, I wasn't necessarily expecting to get on and complete the application process in my tiny fifteen-minute window this morning, but I would have thought that the system would have been a bit more crash-proof. And yes, this is the government we're talking about, but state government is supposed to be more efficient than that.

I guess the long and short of it is, I'm still my own dishwasher. And that's fine, at least until the point where I need to sell the house. But I'd be lying if I said a little rebate today would have gone a long way towards this upgrade for me.

To my fellow Texans: Did you try and get through to this site today? And if so, were you successful?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Line from One of the Lions of Jazz

On this day in 1927, Gerry Mulligan was born. The world of jazz, and baritone saxophone playing in particular, is far better for that event having taken place. He's no longer with us, but his music lives on.

I posted this video to Facebook this morning, and I thought it was worth sharing here as well:

"Line for Lyons" is one of my favorite Mulligan tunes, and he's in particularly fine form in this 1983 video from Italy, playing with a fire that belies his reputation as being solely in the "cool" school. Watch, listen and enjoy!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Overworked and Underblogged?

I have quite a few major projects that I'll be working on this week, so I don't know how much blogging will take place in the next few days. As always, I thank you for your patience.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Different Kind of Spring Cleaning

Blog posting has been pretty scant from me recently, so there's nothing like a lazy Saturday on a three-day weekend to get all caught up. As always, so that my work won't go for naught, here is a list of posts I've completed today:With any luck, I'll have regular posts up again now that things have calmed down.

And if I'm still behind in posting next week, I have a new excuse: After literally years of people bugging me to do so, I finally joined Facebook last night. Feel free to friend me if we have that status in real life or fan me otherwise. (And if either of the above makes for too much Kev in your online life, you can always stick with the old stalwarts known as MySpace and Twitter and this very blog...)

Friday, April 02, 2010

New Urbanism in an Old Urbanist Setting

I've lived in Garland for a long time now, but I haven't spent all that much time downtown. The area has experienced various degrees of "deadness" over the years, and when Firewheel Town Center opened back in '05, it appeared that the fake downtown would supplant the original one as the major center for activity in the city.

But Garland's a big place, and downtown always had a few cards to play (the DART station, the Granville Arts Center, the Plaza Theatre, and so on). And about a year ago, when I played a wedding reception at the Granville complex, I was able to observe the rise of a mixed-use development that's certain to help revitalize downtown: It's called Fifth Street Crossing, and it's up and ready to go.

The location really couldn't be better, as it's within easy walking distance (as in two blocks or less) of the three places listed above, as well as the downtown square, which seemed remarkably busy today. (Was it the holiday, or have things improved that much since the last time I was downtown?) I look forward to seeing what types of retail establishments go in the street-level spaces below the apartments, and the square and surrounding blocks are already home to some really good eateries, including Vetoni's on Main Street, where I ate last week, and the Corner Pocket Sandwich Shoppe, which was the site of today's lunch.

There's still a bit of work to be done in the surrounding area (the old freight rail station to the north of the property needs some big-time sprucing up), but the new development is an instant improvement to the area, and despite its new-ness, it blends in just fine with the surrounding architecture. And while the atmosphere is pretty subdued at the moment, as more people and businesses move in, downtown Garland should be hoppin' in a way that hasn't been seen in a long time.

My only gripe about all this? The prices, of course. I've long said that, as an unabashed New Urbanism fan, I'd consider living the lifestyle myself if a few things could happen: 1) I could afford a Wenger module to dampen the sounds of my practicing ( this would be a prerequisite of my ever sharing internal walls with another household), and 2) I could afford the residences themselves. A look at the floor plans for Fifth Street Crossing reveals an unfortunate truth: Their least-expensive unit (an efficiency) is a shade less per month than my mortgage payment, but it's also around half the square footage of my house. Meanwhile, their unit that comes closest to my house in square footage (but still falls short) is $600 a month more than my mortgage. (And yes, I probably wouldn't consider this place specifically since it's all rentals, and, being firmly ensconced in the world of homeownership, I still view renting--where, at the end of the day, you end up with no equity to show for your years of payments--as a step backwards. But it's not like I could afford a Southlake Brownstone or any other resident-owned New Urbanist dwelling, either--not unless my salary magically sextupled overnight.)

So, while I may not be able to afford to live this lifestyle anytime soon, I'm still going to patronize places like this and sing their praises in places like this blog and Twitter. These places are great for the community, and I'll do what I can to walk the walk (often literally) and spread the word.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Census Didn't Make a Fool Out of Me After All

A few weeks ago, I noted the ease of filling out the 2010 Census form, even as I wondered what the point was of sending it out in mid-March when it asked for a report on the status of one's household as of today, April 1 (no foolin'). After all, someone could go through a dramatic change in household status in the two weeks between the time the forms hit our mailboxes and today. Marriages begin and end, people are born and die, people move, and so on. I wondered how many times that happened--how many people filled out their status "as of April 1" two weeks ago and were then made into liars when life got in the way of their plans.

Well, I can happily report that, here at Casa de Kev, my report of two weeks ago remains accurate today. Since I wasn't expecting marriage or babies in the past two weeks, this is a good thing; it also means no friends got kicked out of their houses and had to move in, which is also good.

Did you fill out your census form yet? There sure were a lot of signs around reminding people to do so. And if you didn't get to chime in a few weeks ago, feel free to tell me if you think the process is too intrusive or if it's OK.

Not everybody plays the fool: Did you participate in either end of an April Fool's prank today? A lot of people are noting that, in this tight job climate, it might be a really bad idea to pull one at work. I didn't see any at the schools or the college today, though, being payday, a public school kid certainly could have pretended to forget to pay me. (Alas, those who said they forgot their money weren't pretending.)