Saturday, February 27, 2010

If You Squint Really Hard, You Can See Chicago from Here

Downtown is at the very back of the picture. Really.

I may not get into Chicago proper on this trip, but at least I got to see my snow for the year.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Here Are My Thousand Words for Today

This is the place where we performed a few hours ago:

Hammerschmidt Chapel, Elmhurst College (IL)

The performance went well, and now we'll get to enjoy the rest of the festival on this lovely campus just outside Chicago.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Colorful Wind Blows Here

POCAHONTAS, ARKANSAS--It's been a fairly uneventful trip so far; indeed, the only reason I'm posting now is because I don't usually end up in a town with such an unusual name. (And yes, there's a statue of her in a downtown park that we're likely to pass on our way out of town.)

One performance down, one more performance and a clinic to go. The trip's been uneventful so far, but I'll post pictures of anything interesting as time permits.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Travel Advisory

I'll be on tour with a few of the college jazz groups for part of this week, so blogging may be light for a while. Ultimately, the usual travel photos and concert revues are likely to follow, though I can't guarantee they'll be done in a timely fashion (as if that's anything new for this blog lately, LOL).

I suppose once the Olympics are over, I'll get back on a regular schedule, but for now, I'm really transfixed by the Games, and I'm looking forward to having something to do during a chill night or two in the hotel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So Far, Today Was a Snow-Go

One to two inches of snow expected in the Metroplex today, they said. I prepared myself for long drives between schools, even possible closures (and as I tweeted last night, I did not want a snow day today because of some important rehearsals for upcoming performances that were scheduled to take place). Starting around 5 a.m., they said last night. Moving in slowly from the west, they said this morning as I drove to school at 7:30.

So what did we get from this? Bupkis, so far. It was supposed to be heavier just to our south, in Hillsboro and Waco, but it actually stretched as far south as Austin, which got a rare snow day today. (My sister sent a picture of one of my nephews with the snowman he'd built; everyone say "Awww!") I have a feeling that the whole system ended up a bit further south than expected.

So if the DFW area is to break the record for most snowfall in a season, they'll need two more inches before spring, and it looks like today is out of the picture. And looking at the 10-day forecast, it's not supposed to drop below freezing again (after tomorrow morning) through at least March 4, so barring anything really unusual (spring break snowball fight, anyone?), the old record will stand.

Hey, fellow DFWers--anyone get snow today? Post your accounts (and cool snowman pictures) in the comments.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Latest Roadblock (Road-Blog) to Blogging

I've been really bad about starting posts and not finishing them lately (because of sleepiness, overscheduled days, catching up on work, or a combination thereof), but I have to say that the Winter Games have created a logjam of, well, Olympic proportions on this blog. I like the WInter Games a lot more than their summer counterparts (Michael Phelps notwithstanding, of course), so it seems like there's always something cool to watch. But the end result is, once again, more unfinished posts at the blog. Hopefully, I can catch up in the next few days.

But in the meantime, I've been tweeting quite a bit about the Games and some other stuff, so if new material is slow to come up here, please feel free to visit me there.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Great Way to Fix Congress

It's pretty clear that Congress is broken; they've lost touch with how we "regular" people live their lives, and they tend to get corrupted by the cesspool that is Washington, gaining a sense of entitlement and, in many cases, setting themselves up to get re-elected for life if they so desire. There are a lot of ways to fix this, including term limits and voting out every incumbent, but op-ed writer Ralph Benko of the Washington Examiner came up with a great idea that had never even occurred to me: Let 'em telecommute!
We send our elected representatives far from home to conduct The People’s business. We send them to Washington, D.C. where they form what our flyboys (and flygirls) call “a target-rich environment” for the lobbyists and for the political party leadership.

We send them far from us … to conduct our business. There was no other way in the 18th, 19th, and most of the 20th century. In the 21st century, of course, this is absurd.

As things now stand, it is too easy for lobbyists and party leadership to “get at” our elected legislators. And too hard — impossible, on a concentrated basis — for voters to spend “face time” with their representatives.

We plain folks, and our representatives, would be well-served by changing the rule requiring our legislators to vote from the floor of Congress. And this could be done by a simple rule change, no legislation or constitutional amendment required.
The Constitution simply provides that “a majority of each [chamber] shall constitute a quorum to do business” and does not even specify “present,” much less what that would mean in the 21st century of webcams, Skype, videoconferencing, broadband internet or other technologies out there. The rules of both the House and Senate provide that a quorum is assumed unless a quorum call shows that it is not.
So how would this work? Benko explains:
By a simple rule change, our legislators could give themselves permission to vote from their district offices. Not require it. Simply permit it. From there, they could tele-speak, by Web, and tele-listen, by Web.

Now, they listen by closed circuit TV and speak rarely enough. They could speak more conveniently, and thus more often, by Webcam than they do now, and from home.

In fact, they could invite their constituents to form a “studio audience,” changing the chemistry rather dramatically.) They could make a district office home-base for most of their staff, instead of doing it backwards, as now. (Jobs for constituents! What a concept!)

Travel is such a hassle, the cost of maintaining two homes beyond the reach of most of our legislators. Under such a rule, it is highly likely that a lot of members would vote, more and more often, from their district offices. (Many of their wives, or husbands, would see to it!)

More time in the District means less in D.C., and it would be a lot harder, and more expensive (all that travel!) for the lobbyists to smooth talk them and for party leadership to twist their arms.

At home, they would be much more in touch with the people who they represent. With much less wear and tear.

(Read more at the Washington Examiner:
This sounds perfect to me. If they spend more time around regular people (especially those who voted for them) and less time around lobbyists--and each other--they would turn out to be much more effective at what they were sent to Washington to do in the first place, which is to serve the people--not themselves, as is too often the case nowadays.

Am I missing anything? This sounds like a great idea (for everyone except lobbyists and hardcore partisan "leaders," and I don't care about them, not one whit). Chime in with your own opinion in the comments.

UPDATE: Mr. Benko himself makes an appearance in the comments.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Taco Time in San Antonio, and Checklist Time Here

SAN ANTONIO--Another TMEA convention is in the books. And when it's done, I usually go back and look over my annual "checklist" to see how this year compared to past conventions. Said checklist is now conveniently posted in several previous years of this blog, so let's just use last year's as a template and see how it stacks up:
  • Spend quite a bit of time in the exhibit hall? Check. It's pretty much mandatory to do this; some newbies even refer to the exhibits as "the convention," as in, "Have you been to the convention yet today?" even when outside another convention event.

  • Spend way too much money at the Tap Music (rare CD store) booth? Once again, no; they haven't been here for two years now. (Which is just as well, as my CD budget would have been zero dollars this year.)

  • Eat way too many big meals on the Riverwalk? Check. But this year I paced myself, so that even the traditional giant chimichanga at The Original Mexican Restaurant didn't do me in, for once.

  • See some people I hadn't seen in several years at the UNT reunion? Check. This is statistically bound to happen nearly every year. (And man, was this year's reunion crowded!)

  • Make jokes about how, when, I was in college, the free food at said reunion would serve as Friday night's dinner? Check.

  • Watch someone propose to his girlfriend during the serenade at the Sinfonia sing? Nope--not for the past two years now, though we thought there was a "ring sighting" at first.

  • Get to the convention center in time to see the high-school all-state jazz ensemble on Saturday morning, making it with just minutes to spare? This year, with a student in the band, I was ├╝ber-early, to the point that I almost caught part of the previous concert. (And the Texas Ballroom at the Grand Hyatt was a perfectly serviceable concert venue.)

  • Fight the crowds at the Rivercenter food court at lunchtime? Almost, but the crowds were still formidable at nearly 2:00, so we hoofed it down the street to Fuddruckers this time.

  • Get a table there (the food court) by spying someone about to leave one and pouncing on it 2.5 seconds after they'd gotten up? Nope; see above.

  • See the Andean Fusion band playing some sort of a classic-rock cover song on ancient wooden flutes just outside that food court? Check; but not until this afternoon; the cold rain of the first few days limited outdoor activities, and I wasn't at the Rivercenter as much this time.
And a few things returned to the tradition: DIning on the river at Casa Rio (where the "pigeon show"--flocks of the birds descend on a table and devour the uneaten chips as people vacate it--has become quite a spectacle, not to mention a common photo-op); visiting the big Starbucks on the Riverwalk, which is no longer a Hear Music store since that partnership was dissolved; and doubling the Starbuckage at the RIvercenter store--a nice chill break between the TJEA meeting and the UNT reunion.

As for traditions that have been put on hold this year: I didn't spend a dime at the exhibits (though I did a lot of looking and advised students on some purchases), and I wasn't around for the end of any business day in the hall, where the same announcer guy says "It's taco time in San Antonio!" and they literally start rolling up the carpets on people when it closes for the year on Saturday. I also didn't get to see any high school all-state "regular" band concerts (mostly because they conflicted with my own students' concerts), and nobody got to see anything in the stately Lila Cockrell Theatre this year, as that venue is under renovation. I sure hope it retains its aesthetic beauty and acoustical brilliance when they're done.

Needless to say, there was a lot of walking that took place in the past four days, and i guess it's good that, despite my "bad" knee, both of my legs ached equally throughout the week. It will actually be nice to get in the car and drive tomorrow and save the walking for later.

TMEA is, as always, a great musical experience and a great hang. It's easily the highlight of this time of year. If I have any other thoughts on the week, I'll save them until I return home tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

(This is a placeholder; I'll post a picture of me playing a bass saxophone in this spot once I get home from TMEA.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So Far, It's Stock Show Weather at TMEA

SAN ANTONIO--As I tweeted just a bit ago, some mornings you wake up, look outside and say "What a beautiful day!" Others, your response is just "gross." With cold, rain and fog, it's the latter here at TMEA today.

Up in Ft. Worth, they have a term for this: stock show weather, as the cold, wet stuff seems to plague their annual event. Granted, I'd rather have this than the snow that they're experiencing back home right now (though a friend texted that it's like a picture postcard at the moment), and it is expected to clear up by late tonight. It'll never exactly be shirtsleeve weather while we're down here, but at least it'll hit the 50s tomorrow and there'll be a break from the wet. (Meanwhile, back home, Dallas is expecting more snow today than Vancouver, where the Winter Olympics are starting tomorrow.)

The trip down was uneventful, and we even made pretty much record time despite a late start at the rental car place. The locally-based Air Force jazz band Dimensions in Blue opened the event in fine form last night, with a guest appearance from Woody Herman alumnus Dave Stahl, whose high trumpet chops are still solid after over 40 years in the business. I also enjoyed the solo work of tenorists Cody Brown and Rob Karns, altoist Ryan Leatherman, bari player/spokesairman Ken Drefke, pianist Darrin Dziergowski, and trombonist Don Marchand, a former college classmate of mine.

It's about time to venture out in the muck and catch some clinics and All-State rehearsals (I have two students in the community college jazz ensemble and one in its high school counterpart), as well as the legendary exhibit hall, whose gigantitude was noted here last year. I'll try to post updates here and there (and maybe catch up on some unfinished ones from last week), and I'll wrap it all up when I get back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Travel Advisory

I'll be blogging for the rest of the week from the TMEA convention in San Antonio (and likely missing the snow that's forecast for DFW for tomorrow). I'll probably get caught up on some older posts as well. (And yes, it's crazy to think that I'll have to go out of town to get caught up on everyday things, but that's how it goes for me at this point in time.)

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my oldest nephew, Noah, who was born during TMEA nine years ago. I recounted that first day here, on his third birthday and in the second year of this blog.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I May Not Get Caught Up on Blog Posts Tonight...

...but I'll be tweeting my thoughts on the Super Bowl commercials throughout the game. (And thanks for your patience on the lack of blogging--really. I'll catch up next week during TMEA.)

UPDATE: OK, so there were a few good commercials on there tonight. My personal favorites were the one with Betty White playing football (even if, a few hours later, I can't remember who the commercial was for), a couple of the Doritos ads, the Coke spot with the Simpsons characters, the Bud ad with the Clydesdale and the Longhorn, and the Google spot that tracks a relationship from meet-up to buying baby supplies.

So what was your favorite? Hit the comment button and talk to me. (And if you missed a few, or want to see them again, they're about to be posted here.)