Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis The Season!


In the coming days, we will be celebrating Christmas!  The Christmas season is perhaps the most recognized and celebrated season of all.  People are busy preparing.  Preparing to give gifts, and to receive guests...preparing to get together with family and preparing for both the years end and the beginning of a New Year.

I find many people are more likely to say, "hello", in passing, during this time of year, or perhaps "Merry Christmas"!  I like it. 

When I hear a stranger say, "Merry Christmas", it reminds me of snowy winter days, when the wind blew cold on my face and my siblings and I were walking behind Mom as she walked thru the parking lot at Montgomery Wards, or as we walked along the covered sidewalks of the smaller strip malls near the big Department Stores.  Back then, Christmas music was piped over even the exterior store speakers (and if I remember correctly, even some of the smaller towns played Christmas music over PA's), so that walking thru a parking lot, or along a sidewalk, you could hear Bing singing "Silver Bells" slightly out of time with the echoes of other speakers in the distance...mixing with the noise of the wind...And most times you could hear one person saying, "Merry Christmas" to another...or sometimes to Mom or us kids.  Total strangers mind you...simply passing on some good cheer and the seasons greeting.  I imagined it would always be this way...

Below you will find a few Christmas songs that I arranged/recorded.  ( ignore any mistakes you hear!)  As mentioned before, my Yamaha Clavinova (a fancy digital piano) lets me make and play music using a wide variety of musical instruments.  The songs here were played using a standard piano, trombone, oboe, pipe organ, strings and even some synthesized "gothic voices"! Some are simply a solo piano, others are arranged and over dubbed with other parts that I play and arrange together to make one song.

"O'Come O'Come Emmanuel" was performed using the pipe organ.  I couldn't resist making all of the old school Catholics out there, INSTANTLY recall walking into Church during the Christmas season.  It certainly made me chuckle when i played it back...until the memories of stern nuns and endlessly repeating "Hail Mary's" suddenly came to me!

The last song listed here, "Silent Night", is sung acapella by my daughter Veronica.  She recorded this in my home office on a large condenser microphone, while learning how to record herself and use the microphone etc.  It wasn't practiced, and even so, I think it sounds beautiful. 

Each of these songs can be downloaded (Mp3) by "right clicking and saving" or simply click on your selection to listen to it without downloading.

I hope these songs will contribute to the joyous Christmas Spirit that this season brings!

White Christmas

The Christmas Song

O' Come O' Come Emmanuel

Where Are You Christmas

O Holy Night

O Tannenbaum

Silent Night (Veronica)


Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Remember when....


Apparently there is a billboard ad campaign underway at Chevrolet.  I was told that this was one of the billboard ads up in the Detroit Metro area.  Way to go Chevrolet!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall Clean Up



It has certainly been a while since I last posted here!  So much for consistent blogging!!  I think I may be out of compliance with some blogging rule or something!

To be honest, I never imagined I would be inclined to post my daily thoughts or activities as some do.  I have always been a bit "hot and cold", as I seem to become deeply involved/interested in something, only to find something else a few months later that has piqued my interest even more.  I have learned that I come back around to all of my interests on a rather cyclic basis....so I have learned not to sell my bike, or camera, or piano or telescope, only to find I really need another one a year down the road!  But, I digress.

We recently replaced the upstairs carpet in our 12 year old home. (We had replaced the downstairs carpet two years ago)  We had been planning on doing this in 2005 or 2006...then 2007...then...well most of you can relate.  When we pulled the trigger and made the appointment, we knew of course, that the upstairs would need to be empty so that the installers could do their job.  That meant cleaning, moving or relocating most of our home but, it would be coinciding with our annual Fall Clean Up, so what better time to get it done.  12 years of living, putting things in the closets (hey, we will find a place for that later!) and stubbornly clinging to things that while not irreplaceable, reminded us of moments in time that we were not yet ready to let go of, awaited us. 

As you can imagine, it was alot of work to relocate everything to the garage, Goodwill or the trash can.  There was also time spent smiling at the photos that were under the bed that we hadn't seen for years....our young children who have since grown up, photos of a younger couple with less lines on their faces...cards from loved ones...clothes that don't fit...shoes my wife happily re-discovered.

We always do a fall clean-up.  Put away the lawn mower, rake up the leaves, hang up the bikes....make room inside for a Christmas Tree and the likely "too many" presents etc.  We get ready for the colder weather.  Nights spent indoors on the couch with a blanket, the raindrops noisily hitting the windows, as we enjoy the smell of a slow cooked meal in the Crock Pot.

This year felt different.

The recent trip to Michigan still has me wondering why I live so far away from the family I love.  I'm older too...not the "we all get older every year" older...rather an older that has to do with seeing children become adults and seeing friends face mortality.  A look back over one's shoulder wondering "what difference or impact have I made"?...kind of "Older".

We were able to get everything out and a day or two later we watched as the old carpet came up and the new carpet was installed.  It looked, smelled and felt like a new house.  We got down to the business of putting the empty upstairs back together.  Up came the familiar bed and couch...the clothes that had survived...books both read and unread.  I re-lived, by way of brief snapshots in my mind's eye, the 12 years that we had spent in our home.  So many memories.

As I sorted pictures, hung up my daughters 4th Grade artwork in my home office, put away a binder containing Ronald Reagan's Photo and a few of his speeches, (that I had assembled upon his death for my daughter to read when she is an adult) and re-discovered the hand knitted 8 ft x 6 ft Afghan (think knitted blanket) my sister had made me many years ago, I admit, I felt a bit nostalgic.

So many things had changed or perhaps it is more accurate to say, so many things had happened...since we walked into that brand new house in 1998.  It is a common experience.  Sobering, joyful, sad and reflective...all at the same time. 

Yeah, I think too much.  

And, since we have cleaned and gone through the whole house,  we might as well get the yard cleaned up...I mean, there are leaves everywhere and the grass is too long....and we need to cover up the outdoor furniture....geeez, I should have stained the "Big Toy" and pressure washed the driveway, and I meant to trim those darn trees that have gotten way too big!

I think I will do it....next year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From Fargo, to Butte, to Tacoma













We left Michigan and prepared for the grueling drive back to Washington state.  We had decided to take the northern route using I-94 instead of I-90, for a change of scenery.

We stopped off for the night outside of Chicago, and had dinner with my Sister and her family, before heading out to try to put some miles under us.  We ended up driving until 2 am, and stopped just outside of Madison, WI for the night.

The next morning we were on the road making our way through Wisconsin, then on to Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, then straight through until we hit Fargo, North Dakota...where we stayed the night in the nicest motel to date.

The sights along I-94 were similar to those we had seen on the way out to Chicago/Detroit, but I tried to take a few photos along the way just the same.  We frequently saw farms near Fargo, ND that had a large pond or lake near the Interstate, that was surrounded by fields of corn or wheat.  Some of these farms were quite pretty.

Left Fargo, ND and soon we were in Montana...16 hours and we ended up making it to Butte, MT.  Geezes that was a long day.  Photos?  Well I was in no mood...but we saw some beautiful fields of wheat that seemed to go on forever, and after dodging the 18 wheelers that often seemed to surround us, we were even treated to a very nice rainbow after driving into/through a small storm.

When we left Butte, MT...I was on a mission to get back into Tacoma with little wasted time...and I drove across the Continental Divide, through the mountains, past Lake Coeur d'Alene and into Spokane, WA.  We had been along this stretch so many times, it just didn't seem inspiring.

A few hours and many, many insect impacts later...we arrived back in Tacoma, safe and sound...but tired of being in the car!  The car, with its bug ridden (looked like it was shot with multicolored paint balls!) front end...seemed tired as well.

It was a weary end to an adventurous, all American "road trip"...that led us through almost 5000 miles of the United States, including 11 different States!  We saw National Monuments, historic locations, small towns and big cities...thundering storms and peaceful plains.  We visited 3 National Parks and 2 National Shorelines including two of the Great Lakes...and we had eaten everything from hot dogs to caviar.

Most importantly, we re-connected with our family and got to look into each others lives and families...getting to know each other a little better.

It was a great trip.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Home!



















We arrived safely in Michigan after our short visit in Chicago...2400 miles total!

We stayed with my youngest brother Dennis and his wife Michelle and their daughter Hailey.(And their dog Dakota)  Hailey is literally twice as tall as the last time we saw her!  She went from little girl, to little lady. 

While in town, we were able to visit several times with my Dad and his wife Chris, as well as seeing the rest of my brothers and sisters. (Patrick and his little girl Maya...who has Patrick's curly blonde hair....and my oldest sister Kathy and her husband Gary)  Everyone was healthy and it was great to see and share some time/memories with the family that I so rarely see these days.

Kathy was given the task of resurrecting my old teddy bear, "BB"...who has seen significant and loving wear and tear over the years at the hands of my daughter Veronica.  We hope to see "BB" shipped out in the next month with a facelift of sorts!

We seemed to never stop eating!!  We enjoyed Coney Dogs, pizza from "Holiday Pizza" (A place I used to work), frozen custard from "Erma's Frozen Custard" stand" (on three separate occasions!!), chicken from the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, MI, a sack of burgers from the local "White Castle" burger joint and a lunch buffet at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. 

Our trip to Mackinac was memorable.  We drove up with my brother Dennis and his family.  We ventured across the verrrrry longggg Mackinac Bridge (5 miles long and for many years, the longest suspension bridge in the world!) and took a few photos before going back to Mackinac City and spending the night in a motel that overlooked Lake Huron.  Hailey and Veronica had fun shopping and visiting the Mirror Maze". (A house of mirrors...that you have to find your way through)  We dipped our feet in Lake Huron (and earlier in Lake Michigan) and looked for "Petoskey Stones" and shells on the beach.

The next day we took a ferry to Mackinac Island, where we spent the day riding bicycles around the island (no motors allowed there...its horse and buggy or bicycles) before taking a horse drawn taxi  up to the Grand Hotel...one of the finest hotels in the United States!!  (for you movie buffs, "Somewhere in Time" was filmed here)  It was a bittersweet moment when I entered the Grand Hotel as it was one of my Mom's favorite places on earth.  Though I had seen it from across the water several times, I had never been inside the Hotel (none of us had!) ...rather, as a young man I had heard how much my Mom had enjoyed staying there back in the 70's.  We enjoyed an incredible lunch buffet in the grand dining hall, taking in the views as much as the delicious food!

 Until recently, you were not allowed to even enter the Hotel unless you were a registered guest...after 5 pm ladies must still wear a dress and men are required to wear a jacket and tie.  After a beautiful day on the Island, we drove back home that night, by way of Frankenmuth MI, where we had dinner at the famous Bavarian Inn!

While home, we had two get together's at Dennis and Michelle's, one was just to get the Gamble family together for a visit and the other was a Birthday Party for Hailey....who just turned 11!  Congrats Hailey!  We met some of Michelle's relatives at the birthday party and put faces to names for the first time in some cases!

Before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Time for the long drive back to Washington. 

Thanks to everyone for their hospitality, generosity and for making time for us.  Thank you Dennis and Michelle for opening your home to us and for driving us everywhere!!  Thanks Kathy, Gary, and Patrick for making the trip out to gather as a family.  We really had a great time!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicago!









After four days of travel we finally saw the skyline of Chicago as we made our way to my sister's house. We were glad to settle in for a couple days, and get off the road.

We had a chance to get to know the nieces and nephews that we had not seen for almost ten years. My sister Debra (second oldest) had never met my daughter until we showed up today!! We took the next couple days and caught up as best we could with the “goings on” in everyone's lives. While doing so, we were able to sample some Chicago food favorites! We enjoyed Italian Beef Sandwiches in a cute diner, (See photo) Chicago style Deep Dish Pizza, and of course, a few Chicago Style Hot dogs!!

I was quite impressed with my nieces and nephew. They all seem to be well grounded, hard working young adults. Erin is sassy, Colleen is quiet and Sean is a brainiac. (See his “Epic” computer setup in the above photo)

Time was short, and before we knew it, it was time to head towards Detroit. We had a great time and wish we could have stayed longer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hay Bales and Corn Fields







Well, we left our 1950's "Motor Inn" motel and headed east through South Dakota.  Driving I-90 across this state is a test of one's patience.  While the skyline and the open prairie has its charm, seeing it for 8-10 hours and 400 plus miles..while listening to the drone of pavement disappearing beneath you at 70 mph...has a way of wearing you down!

The most common sight along this route were the countless, large bales of hay, scattered throughout the vast hay fields    All I could think of was, "amber waves of grain!"

Finally, Minnesota!  A new state....and instead of hay...endless fields of corn!!  We passed many, many fields of corn...usually with an old farmhouse and accompanying barns/silos amidst large stands of trees.  They looked like houses in tiny forests...smack in the middle of hundreds...no...thousands of acres of corn!

We rolled into La Crosse, Wisconsin (Barely in WI) in time to hit the sack.  Maybe I will spot some cheese to photograph tomorrow before we arrive in Chicago!?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Close Encounters and Presidential Profiles





We began our day headed towards South Dakota...but couldn't resist a side trip to Devils Tower National Monument!  It was our nations first National Monument, and some of you (older folks) may recall it from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".  It is an interesting piece of geology and adds a bit of intrigue to an already beautiful setting.

Next stop, another side trip...to the town of Deadwood.  You might recall that Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the #10 Saloon in this wild west town!   It has lost much of its charm to tourism, but the valley that the town sits in is still beautiful.  Much of the old town, many structures and the Main Street are still there if you look hard enough.

Lastly, we stopped in Keystone, SD to visit Mt Rushmore.  It was the first time for my daughter, and I never tire of looking up at that incredibly detailed, super sized sculpture!  The entire facility was beautifully restored/improved since my last trip there almost 20 years ago.  The Presidents looked great!

We spent much of the day on "side trips" and made little progress towards Chicago, finally having to stop to get some sleep in the little town of Koduka, SD.  The motel, well...it looks kinda like the "Bates Motel"...but its home for the night!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

East to Gillette, WY



 

We left Missoula this morning.  After a brief look at the County Courthouse (See above photo) and a fond look at "Finnegans" restaurant, (a classic family restaurant that literally spans/sits above a river below...where we have enjoyed meals on similiar cross country trips) we got back onto I-90 and headed toward Rapid City, SD.

We never made it to South Dakota, deciding instead to call it quits in Gillette, WY.  We just had enough asphalt for the day!

Between Sheridan and Gillette, we chased a storm for about 2 hours!  We were driving 70 miles per hour and finally caught it about 30 miles west of Gillette.  The storms are so clearly seen in these wide open states, and from distances so great, one almost forgets how large they are!  We felt the tail end of this storms fury for a few minutes before it moved south of us.  The second photo is what we saw during those two hours....as we gave chase!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Missoula By Way of Eastern WA



For those aware of our trek to Chicago and Detroit, (and back) we drove from Tacoma, WA to Missoula, MT today.  We got a late start (as usual) and only drove for about 9 hours today.  I have yet to look at a map to see where we will celebrate the 4th of July!

On our way across the rather desolate eastern part of Washington, I was able to snap a few photos.  The one shown above is a good representation of how it feels to drive across the open landscape....lonely...like that little old barn! 

Eastern Washington has its own charm with its sagebrush and the occasional tumbleweed carelessly crossing the roadway in front of you.  The green mountains of Idaho and Montana broke up the monotony and night was falling as we motored into Missoula.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ethnicity "Select One"


Recently, I have heard the issue of declaring one's “race” becoming a bit of a controversy.

I have heard some recent opinions disputing the need to declare such things on the recent and ongoing 2010 Census. Today I read in a local newspaper, that there is some concern over the accurate (or inaccurate) “box-checking”, as it relates to new Federal and State rules that seek more detailed information on the race of students.

We elected a President that has been hailed as the “First African American President” of the United States. I have never understood this. My understanding is that our current President has a “white” Mother and a “black” Father. This makes him as “white” as he is “black”!!?? I use the President as an example because he is such a recognizable figure that most everyone knows.

If it is not politically correct to “stereotype” someone based on the color of one's skin, why are people calling President Obama a “black” man...or “African American”? Is it because his features tend towards “African American”? If so, is that appropriate? Is it fair to simply disregard 50 percent of his heritage? Is it fair to his Mothers side of the family to simply ignore any of the cultural and ethnic background of his own Mother?! Quite simply, fear of speaking the truth and “Political Correctness” has distorted the truth. Its that simple. President Obama is of mixed race. He is no more “black” or African American, than he is “white”. Did this “black” self-identification serve as an advantage for his election? Was it used purposely?

President Obama exemplifies something that has gone on for years, without anyone pointing it out for fear of being “Politically Incorrect”. When a mixed race child (product of white and black parents, white and Asian parents, white and Hispanic parents...for example) is produced, the vast majority of the time, the child is identified (and thus identifies himself/herself) with the minority parent, and very often identifies with that culture, to the exclusion of the other Parents culture.

It is not because of math, percentages or common sense that this occurs, as it is obvious that there are two parents, each with past cultural, ethnic and heritage identities. Why is it that the minority identity takes over in these cases? Why isn't the child “white”? If it is simply due to the outward physical characteristics that one might exhibit, doesn't that seem a bit “stereotypical” and/or “racist”? Perhaps the “ethnic entitlements” (Think scholarships, affirmative action type programs etc) lure people into claiming the minority part of their heritage? I will leave you to your own questions and conclusions.

I would be remiss if I left out a significant part of American History and its impact in this arena. When slavery was legal, (and for a considerable time after) persons were required to disclose ANY physical, ancestral “black” lineage. This was done to keep track of, and frankly discriminate against not only persons of color but their descendants whether of mixed race or not. (And regardless of how far back, generationally, this “mixing of race” had occurred) It was a bad thing. Certainly no reasonable person would advocate this, yet, here we are in 2010 trying our best as a Country to “keep track” of everyone's ethnicity. Do you think it is for positive reasons? Do you think it promotes looking at all races/ethnicities in the same light....treating all as equal?

At what point does an individual stop being an “ethnic minority”? Is it when an individual is 50 % minority...25 %...10 %...5 %...2 %...? If one has minority status based on a great, great, great, great grandmother or grandfather...is this legitimate? Should it be? Most importantly, is the determining factor for ones minority status the outward physical appearance of an individual? Lets be even more clear. Does one need to have “darker skin” (or different colored skin) than a “white person”? Think about it.

Why are Hispanic persons considered a minority when Italians are not? How can someone from Brazil be more of a minority than someone from Czechoslovakia? How can a person from Japan be a minority, when a person from India or Egypt (heck Egypt would make you “African American”!)....is not? Are Russian immigrants a minority??

We dare not discriminate (or assign minority status I would think) based on the color of ones skin....do we? Did we not, as a country, declare this as “wrong” and “bad”?

Finally, if “minority status” is based on past treatment or hardships encountered as a result of ones race or ethnicity, are Jews a minority? Certainly they have endured hardships spanning thousands of years. They have endured slavery, racism, and the outright murder of millions of their people as recently as 60 years ago! Certainly as much hardship as any ethnicity I know of, no?

I have asked more questions, than made statements. This is purposeful on my part. I am constantly frustrated with the amount of attention race gets in this Country. I think the assignment of race is purposeful and used to advantage by too many people in this Country. People on BOTH SIDES of the “Ethnic minority” argument.

I am an American, with a rich family heritage that includes a variety of cultures and Nationalities and I prefer a society and a Country that “judges a man/woman based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin”. Of course, character is a lot tougher to come by than skin color.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Regarding Immigration

The United States IS and has always been a “melting pot”. What this has meant in the past is that other races, cultures and philosophies etc., have long come to this country and have “melted into” the fabric of our Nation. This “melting” has produced a stronger and richer society in many ways. In general (in the past) these racial, cultural and philosophical differences have become part of the American societal landscape. Part OF the American societal landscape, not separate from it.

While proud of their heritage, many of our citizens (and I use that word purposely) volunteered to fight in our past wars, paid taxes and PROUDLY sought citizenship as they “melted” into the United States of America. They brought with them a strong work ethics, strong beliefs and strong cultural traditions. These citizens remained proud of their cultures and proud of their heritage. They were also proud to call themselves Americans. Read that again....proud to say, and tell their relatives, and in many cases simply and tearfully shout aloud after receiving their Citizenship, “I am an American!!!!!”
The “melting” of all of these cultures and ethnicities has been ongoing..it has happened slowly and there have been plenty of growing pains.

Fast forward from the early days of Immigration to 2010.

We now have Illegal Immigration numbers overshadowing Legal Immigration numbers! Illegal Aliens are waving the flag of their “former” domiciles while DEMANDING privileges, rights and handouts. They do not wish to call themselves Americans, preferring to retain their “National Identities” as they protest and complain. In short they proclaim their pride of their national heritage, even as they illegally enter the United States and suck our generous system dry of monies, services and jobs.

Many, many of these Illegal Immigrants do not wish to “melt into” American society. Many have little respect for our country. Many come to the United States to “get” not to “give”. They shortcut the established immigration policies and do so purposely. Their children, millions of them, become citizens as the result of their Parents overt, purposeful and ILLEGAL actions. It is shameful and it is being ignored in the name of “Political Correctness”. Lastly, it is hurting our country.

I am a strong supporter of Legal Immigration...IF the immigrant wishes to be part OF this country, not just live IN this country. There is a big difference.

I don't believe that becoming a citizen of the United States is an entitlement, I believe it should be earned. I have no use and little compassion, for Illegal Immigrants. I have simply met too many Legal Immigrants from a wide variety of countries and continents, that have followed the rules and have contributed to this country.

If someone simply wants to take from the Country that they hold “second” to their Country of origin...if they fly a flag of another Country in their car with no American flag to be found.... or if one refuses to “melt” into this Country's culture, traditions and language...might I suggest he/she stay “home”.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Parent or Friend?


I believe it is a Parents responsibility to teach, train, mentor, praise and sanction their children as appropriate. I do not believe children possess the education, life experience, wisdom or judgment of a well adjusted adult Parent. Parents are morally and legally responsible for their children and their children's actions, and thus, must assume a position of authority over their children. Children are NOT their Parents equals. Children do not see, process information or understand the world, in a way that adults do. They cant...and should not be expected to.

It appears that Parents have become more and more concerned with “Befriending” their children rather than “Parenting” them.

I observe this behavior routinely both in my personal life and in the course of my duties at work. It appears increasingly difficult for Parents to establish boundaries, rules, and standards of behavior for their children. This difficulty appears to stem from the almost certain dissatisfaction that the Parent will be confronted with, when the expectations are presented to the child. (nothing new here!) For a variety of reasons, many Parents just seem to find it more “comfortable” to yield to their children's protests vs. “Sticking to Their Guns” and acting in the capacity of the “The Strict Parent”.

Consider the following examples:

Children are allowed access to the Internet as well “Social Networking” sites that most adults aren't mature enough to manage properly! (and often don't) How can we expect children between 8 and 16 yrs of age to somehow do better?! These “Social Networks” expand and exaggerate the normal sphere of interpersonal relationships that children used to learn slowly and in person, through their interactions in school.

Children are allowed to have cell phones, even as young as 1st and 2nd grade!? Parents love to cite “emergencies” as the reason their son or daughter “need” cell phones, but its just another example of “I cant say no”. In short, most Parents simply lack the fortitude to do what is in their child's best interest and work harder at presenting justification, than they work at taking a stand!

Cell phones allow for even more “Social Networking” by way of text, pictures and wi-fi access. It teaches our children to communicate within the sterile confines of a screen...lacking in context and intonation and verbal cues etc. It also provides for a level of privacy that is ill advised and completely inappropriate for children. I'm thinking that there isn't much good being said or read by children in the wee hours of the morning as they text and send photos back and forth under their covers as their Parents sleep. Of course, this occurs only with “other peoples” children! :)

It is simple. If a Parent isn't setting the boundaries and standards of conduct for a child, then schools, friends and “Social Networking” are doing it instead. Do these other people have you or your child's best interests in mind? They certainly have your child's attention! Do you?...or are you afraid to lose their approval when you “put your foot down”?

Your child is not your friend, they are your RESPONSIBILITY!  Quit being a friend...your child will have plenty of friends throughout their life.

How many Parents will they have?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Consider This



People may forget what you have said...
People may forget what you have done...
But, they will never forget how you made them feel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

President Obama Smart?

I listen to Michael Medved on occasion. I find him to be very well read, and a very well informed student of history. I believe him to be conservative in most of his views and outlooks. I also find him to be a committed Republican loyal to that side of the aisle, even at the expense of fairness, independent thinking, and options that exclude anything other than the “two party system”. Nonetheless, I believe him to be be patriotic, conservative and a positive voice in the defense of freedom, constitutionality and the American way of life.

Recently, I have heard him attempt to defend a position that I find puzzling. (as have a few others that have called into his show) His assertion is that President Obama is a “Very Smart” man, that is not “purposefully” harming or damaging our Country. He states that President Obama is simply “misguided” by liberal ideology.  Michael then asserts that the overwhelming majority of the Presidents decisions, plans and visions are wrong and detrimental to the Country.  Can you say oxymoronic?? 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Digital Camera/Photography Basics Part 2


Here it is...Part 2 of the Digital Camera/Photography Basics!!

This will be a continuation of Part 1, which introduced some very basic skills, techniques and composition skills that can be used to take better photos.

I will attempt to speak in general terms that will apply to most digital cameras that have been sold since 2005 or so. Some cameras will have buttons in different places, and differing menus etc., but the terms and the basic setup instructions I provide should translate to most digital cameras. I will however, use the menus and physical layout of the Lumix DMC FS5 as an example, but again, most of this should translate to menu(s) or button(s) available on most digital cameras.

Additionally, I will not be covering the multitude of specific ""Picture Modes" that are found on todays digital cameras. There are 27 specific "Picture Modes" included on the Lumix alone! These specific modes range from "Fireworks" to "Night Scene" to "Portrait" and "Pets" modes. I encourage you to explore all of these available "Picture Modes" as they are meant to allow a photographer to choose the correct mode for the type of photo they are composing/taking, and not have to worry about specific settings as the camera will "pre-adjust" the settings appropriate for each "mode". Each of these "Picture Modes" allow for similar adjustments to the settings and options explained below, so when you have finished reading this you will have a working knowledge that will apply to all the "Picture Modes" as well as the "iA" and "Normal Picture" modes discussed below.

Get your camera, make sure the battery is fully charged, grab your favorite beverage and set aside about an hour if you want to get the most out of this info.  It is best used by walking through with your digital camera in hand as you read.  If you have a DSLR, this tutorial will be of significant help to you as well!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Christmas in March?


OK, I promised a new piano (or Clavinova) tune some time ago, but the two songs I am working on are taking me a while to arrange/practice.  So in the meantime, I thought I would post a Christmas song that I recorded last year.  Yeah I know its spring already, but who doesnt like Christmas!

It is a Vince Guaraldi arrangement of "O Tannenbaum".  Most of you know Guaraldi as the pianist behind the "Peanuts" Holiday Cartoon Specials.  It is his Jazzy arrangements that you hear throughout the "Charlie Brown Christmas", which is where this arrangement has its roots.  I really like his choice of chords in this tune and the way it sounds as a piano solo.  I liked how the arrangement sounded when played slowly, with a bit of "feeling".  So, thats how I recorded this one.  Nothing fancy here, just a simple, classic tune.

Click the link below to listen to or download the song.  Enjoy!

O Tannenbaum

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Digital Camera/Photography Basics Part 1



This will be Part 1 of the first "How To" I will attempt to write, in an effort to help others get the most out of their digital cameras/photography. Digital cameras are truly amazing things! Most of us have more camera than we will ever use, unless....we begin to explore and understand the incredible features most of these cameras possess.

I was asked in a comment posted on the The Photo Page, (Tiffany) if her camera could produce high quality images. She also asked if she learned a few basic skills and learned to set the camera up manually, (instead of always setting the camera to "AUTO") if she could expect better photos. Finally she asked, "or do I just need a new camera?"

These are perhaps the most common series of questions asked, when it comes to owners of digital cameras. Even the folks that buy the expensive DSLR Cameras often shake their heads, wondering why their photos are dissapointing. Most think its the camera, and they keep buying the next best camera hoping for better photos....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Looking Up!

2008 Lunar Eclipse (Taken thru a Meade ETX 70 Telescope)

Get outside at night and look up!!

Try to remember the wonder of all those stars, or that big bright moon, when you were a child. It's still there, waiting for you to take notice!

I will try to keep up on any upcoming and significant/interesting Astronomical events. I will also post my impressions of any equipment I use that might be of interest to others, as well as provide insight into starter telescopes that will not get left in a closet a month after Christmas!

Look for some photographs of the planets in the near future, as I will be trying to get outside and observe and photograph some of our closest planetary neighbors! My observations and impressions will find their way onto this blog as well.

In case you did not get to see it, the photo above is a sequence of "phases" that our moon went thru during the 2008 Lunar Eclipse.  The different phases were captured thru an ETX 70 Telescope, as the eclipse progressed.

Note* The above photo is "clickable" (to see full size) and you may download and/or print it for your personal enjoyment!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Piano Musings


Everyone loves music of one genre or another and we all have a favorite song(s). Who among us is not instantly transported back to a specific time/place upon hearing an old song?

I have spent a few years learning to play piano (in a simple sort of style) and have a great time playing songs on either our piano or Clavinova. I intend on posting a few tunes on occassion just for kicks! Feel free to take a listen/download any you find to your liking! (If you have a song you would like to hear me play/arrange on the Clavinova...or piano let me know...it will keep me on my toes!)

For those of you unfamiliar with the Clavinova, it is basically a Digital Piano. It is quite amazing, and it allows me to play virtually any instrument I like by using the piano keys. Flugel Horn, Clarinet, Guitar, Pipe Organ...even a Harpsichord! (See Below) The Clavinova also allows me to edit my music and make accompaniments and record up to 16 tracks simultaneously or separately. It is an amazing instrument!

Back to 1973!

Here's a little arrangement I came up with while playing some Andrew Lloyd Webber on the Clavinova. I used the "Harpsichord" because I seem to remember it being somewhat popular in the 70's, though not necessarily with this song...but after adding some "strings" etc., I thought it was an interesting mix. Click on the link below to download and/or listen to the arrangement.

I Dont Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Politics and Pop Culture


Do I have an opinion on Politics and Pop Culture!? You bet I do.

This is where the word "Insight" fits best in my blog, as I believe many people have little to no insight when it comes to these topics. I think most go along with trends, "popular" opinion and generally ride bandwagons, instead of thinking for themselves!
I apologize in advance to those ignorant people that might be offended by my razor sharp insights into these topics! For you folks, the line starts over there for the "blue pill", I took the red!

Our elderly, our Veterans and our Working Class (No...working on getting more Unemployment Benefits and Government handouts does not qualify as "Working Class") is what has made and makes this Country great, and it is those persons that get my respect and best efforts as I make my way thru life. Oh, and yes it IS a GREAT COUNTRY for those of you that like to bash the USA. The USA has repeatedly come to the rescue of modern civilization, and assisted those less fortunate since its founding! 

My next Pop Culture post will talk to the issue of our failing educational institutions...keep an eye out for it!

Stand up for the National Anthem, fly the AMERICAN Flag, enter our country legally and speak English.
Any questions on where I stand politically?

Oh, and please, have a nice day:)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hawaii!

Palm Trees while laying on Waikiki Beach

Waimea Bay


Sunset Waikiki Beach


Our Hotel!


Sunrise on Waikiki Beach

Well, got back on the 4th of March after a brief vacation in Hawaii. We stayed in Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and made the usual trips to Pearl Harbor, the International Market and Waimea Bay. (North Shore)

We also "enjoyed" a full blown Tsunami Warning and evacuation on our second day there. It was handled VERY seriously by the Hotel Staff and Emergency Personnel. It was certainly a surprise to us all! It ended up being a "non-event" that put us a day behind in our vacation and planning. We were thankful though, that the worst had not been realized. Oh, and HECK YEAH I GOT THE "I SURVIVED THE TSUNAMI" T-SHIRT TO PROVE IT!

A few of my favorite moments were the Malasadas from Leonards Bakery, the warm sand under my feet each day, the Mai-Tai's Sandi and I enjoyed each night, and seeing my daughter laugh and play as she and her friend battled the 4-6 ft waves on the beach in Waimea.

I have posted a few photos on my Photography page, though I seemed to enjoy seeing the sights more this time vs taking pictures of them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photography

Crater lake, Oregon

Who doesn't like taking photos?

I have been an active Shutter Bug for over 25 years. I have gone from 110 film to 35mm to 120 roll film to "how many megapixels is that camera"?!...from dark room developing and printing to "how do I resize that picture in Photoshop"!?.....from Kodachrome slides to "power point slide presentations"!  I have, like many of you, ended up in the digital age!

Feel free to ask questions about techniques, discuss new cameras, or inquire about or post anything to do with your interest in Photography. Chances are if I don't have an opinion (and I will) someone else will certainly be able to weigh in.

Visit The Photo Page to view some of the photos I have taken, or post a question about photography!

The photos are "clickable" to allow full size viewing.  You may download, print, or save them (ie wallpaper) for your own personal use!  Remember to click on the photo to make it full size before you save or print it, otherwise you will be saving/printing the thumbnail!