Sunday, January 27, 2008

Money is...

...never a problem, only a difficulty. This according to a couple well-trusted sources across the Atlantic. While on the surface this might not make sense, when examining the definitions and the context the saying does very well. And it does describe my current condition.

I have crossed a magic threshold in my savings regime. If I were to very much simplify my lifestyle (and in many ways it does need it), I could support myself from now until age 90 through my own money. Granted, being a Greedy Gus, I will over the next few years try to save enough to remain "UN-simple". But knowing that I can walk away from certain aspects of life if need be is very comforting. Perhaps it would be even more comforting to just do it.

We shall see what the next few months in the working world bring...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Health(y) signs

A very odd convergence of people and health matters yesterday, very interesting and very sad in a couple ways.

A very dear co-worker will be leaving tomorrow, victim of her MS. It has been difficult to watch her abilities fall to the tremors, even in the last six months. She will be missed, and I hope to keep in contact once she is home and ready for visitors. At least it sounds like an excellent support network is in place for her.

Another dear co-worker, in her own battle with breast cancer, sent a most unexpected Christmas card, complete with family photo and family news. She is doing well with her life, and the card indicates her kin are helping her and themselves live life to the fullest. The card was a special treat, and livened a rather dreary day.

I spoke with my father Charles (yes, he prefers the formal name) last night. He and his wife are in a Toronto nursing home, doing fairly well. Dad was the best I'd heard him in a couple years; apparently the recent eye and ear surgeries went well. It was so good to laugh with him, like we hadn't done in a long, long time.

When dad put his wife Elaine on the phone, it was clear her Alzheimer's was settling in. Flashbacks to my dad's mom as she succumbed over ten tortured years. So hard to visit the shell of such a vibrant person then. Difficult to hear the words "Who are you again" and "What do you do" last night.

All in all, some fun times and some tough news to swallow. May all who are suffering find comfort. May we all comfort someone who needs it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Br-r-r-r-d Banding 01-19

Against better judgment but at the insistence of an attending group that had made earlier plans, I banded birds for forty-five minutes this past Saturday. Thankfully everything went well, especially for the three Black-capped Chickadees we trapped, banded, measured and released back into the minus seven degrees Fahrenheit day. I was surprised at the group's applause at the end of the program; I hope I and my volunteers provided some educational moments (thank you, my helpers!).
In handling those three birds, I encountered a most curious phenomenon. I imagine this happens all the time, but it is just more noticeable in the extreme cold. Each bird's body was warm yet its legs and feet were quite cold. By the time the bird was to be released, its legs were back to "normal" temperature. Thermal regulation at its best!
With luck, by the third Saturday in February my next bird banding program won't be quite as chilly.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Revelation on the past 8- years

Amazing the ideas one comes across in the middle of the night. Truly a dream-state revelation, this is. And no, I'm not talking the Rapture (for which I always marvel at those who are "ready to go", because according to my Bible if you know when the Rapture is, you aren't part if it). I'm talking the whole raison d'etre of our foreign policy decisions since January 20 (or thereabouts) 2001. And one doesn't even need to look at the TV show 24 (thank goodness, because the always-airborne black helicopters are hovering just above my condo as I write this).

This has all been one giant episode of Duck Dodgers. The search for weapons of mass destruction mirrors the search for Illudium Phosdex (the shaving cream atom!). Our beloved Leader is claiming the planet in his name. Can't you see that Kirlian aura glow with each accomplishment? The sub-Leader has all the big ideas, of course claimed by Leader as his own. Eventually in chasing down all our Marvins the planet is blown up, but by golly we can claim the very last shred!

B-b-b-b-b-big deal...

Time for real leaders instead of cartoon characters. Unless Jesse Ventura runs...

Music Review: Glen Miller


This is definitely music of another place and time. Not so much the sound, but the nature in which this music is made. There is a reason it is called big BAND. Sure, solos have their place, but it is within a context of a larger set of contributors to a greater whole. It is refreshingly contrary to today’s “me, me, more me” pap that makes most so-called music these days almost unbearable.

Presented are the soundtracks of two movies, for which neither I can comment beyond this, not having seen them. The first, “Sun Valley Serenade” takes the band to a lovely ski resort, with Sonja Henie playing a war refugee. The second, “Orchestra Wives” is a take on intra-band relationships at the start of US fighting in World War II. Each one features Glen Miller and crew, and also stars tap dance kings The Nicholas Brothers. I hope the brothers’ appearances (along with Dorothy Dandridge in the first) are not too stereotyped.

The music is a treasure. “Kiss Polka” is played in two forms, first in the driving, swinging theme song and then later in typical Myron Floren fashion (for those who grew up digging Lawrence Welk). Within the latter is the line that always offends my Swedish sensibilities (just kidding): “She’ll say ‘Ya, by yumpin yiminy!’” “In the Mood” never sounded better, with the drum shots that give me goosebumps. “Sun Valley Serenade” is a very guilty pleasure that is always in the top 10 of my big band favorites. “Bugle Call Rag” ranks even higher, with the most intelligent drum solo (yes, there is such a thing) I’ve ever heard. “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” are here in all their glory, the latter with the sweetest intro around.

I highly recommend this music in this format, if you can still find the CD.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Music Review: "Ongiara" by Great Lake Swimmers


I came about this music from Great Lake Swimmers in an odd way. First, the cover art totally captivated me. Second, I read its review by a trusted source (thank you, Sid!). Now I present my own thoughts.

The opening “Your Rocky Spine” jarred me, not in the sense of volume or verbiage but in being totally unexpected. Such is the nature of expectations, so this is a good thing. Its description of the Rocky Mountains as flesh and blood is amazing.

The description for the album is “ambient folk,” and one best get prepared. If you don’t want music to set your mind adrift, definitely listen elsewhere. But when you do, this is spellbinding. Each song sets a mood, creates a scene and takes you through it, mostly in a melancholy manner. Song titles such as "Backstage with the Modern Dancers" and "I am Part of a Large Family" aptly describe the atmosphere inside. Tony Dekker’s voice does take some getting used to; it reminds me of a cross between early Neil Young (think Buffalo Springfield days) and early Jon Anderson (think Yes). But it is always appropriate to the moments captured. The mostly sparse instrumentation allows your own thoughts to fill the gaps.

As the cover depicts, Ongiara is like a thermal-climbing raptor: circling, riding the air, searching. Just be sure you are ready to go along.