Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saying goodbye

It's weird to be writing a eulogy for a pet who wasn't even mine, but P.C. was just that kind of cat.

He showed up on day, about ten years ago, in the gutter across the street from my parents' house. Just lying there. I thought it looked odd so I walked out to the fence for a closer look. When I realized that the cat over there was alive and was headed my way across the street, I jogged over to check it out. What I found was a scrawny, dirty-white kitten, half Siamese and half tabby, and oozing from a puncture in his front leg. He was friendly, though, so I carried him back over to show my mom. She had been musing about getting a cat while her two dogs were still pups, but Hudson (a.k.a. the Gold-Plated Dog) had just been through his second surgery in as many months, and mom's predictable reaction was something about putting the vet's kids through Ivy League educations, so no--no cats. I looked at the purring trainwreck in my hands, and dug for the most manipulative cheap-shot I could come up with. "Okay, then, but I'd better take this guy to the pound so they can at least put him out of his misery, because he's not gonna last with his leg abscessed like it is."

"Oh, just take him to the vet and have them bill me!" she groaned, exasperated. So I grabbed my car keys and bolted off before she could change her mind. The vet shaved the kitten's leg, managed to clean it out without debridement (which would have meant one more surgery on the bill), got the fleas off him, and sent him home within two hours. He sat on the seat next to me, purring all the way.

Soon named P.C. by my mom (short for "Plain Cat," though he earned several less-printable nicknames over his tenure there), this little guy took a short look around my parents' house, declared it his kingdom, and never looked back. He remained on the small side, but put on weight as he developed into a stocky, muscular adult. As his fur filled in it provided the perfect contrast to the most dazzling blue eyes I'd ever seen on a cat. Dogs, people... he held everyone in his sway. Snickers and Hudson (my parents' Springer Spaniels), both over 55 pounds, were reduced to chew toys and wrestling partners. My own dog avoided eye contact most of the time, as he never quite knew what to do when a cat chased HIM. When visitors came over, they were greeted at the door and marveled at this gorgeous, outgoing cat who would turn into a ragdoll in your arms, craning his head backward for an upside-down look at the world. And even as I became more and more allergic to cats in recent years, I'd load up on antihistamines before I'd visit, knowing full well I wouldn't be able to resist petting, playing, or occasionally napping with their little bruiser.

On December 26th, P.C. left us as abruptly he arrived. My mom noticed he hadn't been around for a while and went looking, finding him motionless on their bedroom floor. He hadn't been sick, hadn't been injured, and was only ten years old. I was stunned by my dad's phone call, and I'm sure it's going to be difficult when I go over next. While it's sad to lose P.C. so soon, though, I can't help but smile remembering how much fun it was to know him.

Take care short cat... and wherever you are, don't bite the dogs in the face, okay?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Cow-mass!

My only Christmas decoration this year--I like to keep it surreal.

Have a great holiday, everyone!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I've died and gone to heaven

There is now a BevMo store in my neighborhood. $.25 wine tastings rock.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Turned on the computer this morning, and learned that the Airbus A380 would be arriving at LAX at 11:45am. Wow. A couple of phone calls later, my mom and dad were on their way and we watched the plane come in from the Proud Bird parking lot. Unfortunately, my camera was acting up seconds before I started shooting and I wasn't able to get decent settings to deal with the haze, but at least this will document what we saw. It's HUGE! :-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Aww... sweepy widdle possums!

My dad snapped these photos in his backyard. Turns out that there's not one, but TWO possums snoozing away in this flowerpot. They're cute, in sort of a weird way.

(Clicking on an image opens a larger version.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Computers: Tools, or tyrants?

Hmm. This post by my twitter friend Maria Langer has got me thinking about the lure of the computer, the internet, and their ability to infiltrate every waking moment in a geek's life--not always for the better.

I don't watch TV, to speak of. Yes, I'll turn it on once or twice a week during football season, partially because I'm a rabid UCLA fan, but also because I just like watching the game. Occasionally, I'll watch a movie, but this is on the order of about once a month or two. But mostly, the TV stays off, and I'm glad my life isn't ruled by what's on during primetime. Unfortunately--and I'm being completely honest here--I don't have the same self-control when it comes to my computer, smartphone, and iPod. I'm a gadget geek to logarithmic proportions, and I know full well that those can have the same frustrating effects on life and productivity.

For those of us who fight ADD and its related impulses, the computer is both friend and foe. It's obviously a useful tool, and since I'm big on integrating technology into my classes, I am forced to spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard. The geek in me doesn't begrudge that one bit, since I enjoy tinkering, learning, and keeping up on networking trends (lately, the uses and misuses of social media) is informative and fun. The problem, I think, is that in my business, the lines between work and the kind of play that intrigues me are so blurry as to be indistinguishable. When I surf around to people's blogs on barcamp and Startup Weekend, am I working or goofing off? Both, it seems, and because of that, it's damned difficult to set limits on either one. What do I miss as a result? Well, time to exercise, housework, practice, walk with the dogs, etc. I do all those things (well, most of them... housework has a tendency to drop off the priority list a lot), but I'm sure I don't get to them as soon as I should.

What's the solution? Well, I don't know... I think Maria's computer-less days might be one way to de-tox. Putting myself on a strict schedule is probably going to be a must, since one reality of my work is that I have to be reachable for at least a while each day. Since I tend to abhor structure (but secretly need it), scheduling is likely to be an interesting exercise. Anyone have suggestions for making it work?

Meanwhile, I'll try shutting the computer down when I leave my office in the next hour and leaving it in my bag until, say, 10pm. After that I make no promises, but I'll see what I can do. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 8, 2007


So much is happening that I don't really know where to begin a blog post, so I'll throw up a recipe.

First, some background: Everyone should have an Aunt Lynda. Mine lives a couple of states away, and she and my uncle have this incredible home that calls out to visitors, "come hang out with us for a while... it's therapeutic!" Weekends with them are generally spent watching for bunnies in the garden, hiking, staring out at the prairie, staying up late, playing cards... stuff like that. Things I never get around to at home, but ones that, in the right company, seem to drain the accumulated angst of life away. Yeah, there was that time my cousin and I got completely smashed on gin cosmopolitans while we were there, but that's a rare (though probably necessary at the time) occurrence.

Anyhow... on my last visit, we were playing pitch in the middle of the afternoon, and for some reason everyone was hungry. Dinner wasn't planned for some time, so my aunt threw together a great salsa that staved off starvation, and it (or a variation thereof) has since become a football-season staple here at home. I call it, simply,

Aunt Lynda's Black Bean Salsa

(All measurements here are approximate; use as much as you like)
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1/4 cup cut yellow corn
About 1/2 tomato, chopped fine
About 1 tbsp diced jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
About 3-4 chopped green onions, or a couple tbsp red or brown onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp bell pepper, finely chopped
olive oil
salt to taste

Throw everything together in a bowl with enough olive oil to mix well and refrigerate until someone attacks it (this stuff doesn't last long at my house, but it's actually better after it's been around a day or so).

Serve as a dip with chips or veggies, or fill a pita with the dip and a slice of cheese, and toss it in the toaster oven for about 5-10 minutes. This recipe also scales easily; simply add more of everything and adjust as necessary until it looks right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oliver, Oliver....

... *$&%@!

Been playing that show for two weekends now, and the main theme is driving me to distraction. It's worse, probably, because I'm covering the bassoon book (on bass clarinet--more on that in a moment), and the bassoon is the first to play that theme. Solo. Unaccompanied. And it's one of those tunes that glues itself into your aural memory for several days after hearing it, so you get to enjoy it well into the next week. Argh.

So exactly how does one cover a bassoon part on bass clarinet? Originally, my plan was to transpose the book from the bassoon key (bass clef and in C) to the bass clarinet's key (treble clef, Bb), but that was before a) I ended up having to re-work two of my classes for fall, and b) I actually got a look at the book. It's the small orchestra book--about 70 pages of stuff that includes bassoon rather prominently, and there isn't enough time in my universe to transcribe the whole thing. I was actually starting to panic when a random perusal of Craigslist enabled plan B, which was to play the show on my newly-acquired contra-alto clarinet. I bought the horn from a local composer, and it's a beast! The range of the instrument goes down to low Eb (the lowest Gb on a piano), and since it's keyed in Eb, playing a bass clef part in the key of C is possible by reading it as though it were in treble clef and adding three sharps to the key signature (as well as reversing a lot of accidentals). It's not difficult, exactly, but it does take some getting used to, especially when lines of sixteenth notes are flying by, and some are also in tenor clef, which shifts everything down one note or one space. Finally, throw in the stuff I have to take down an octave because it's out of the contra-alto's practical range (pretty much anything above high C), and you end up with music that keeps me on my toes. I know every serious woodwind doubler deals with this, but it does make reading big band charts seem like a welcome relief. The only other little snag I deal with is the odd part that ends up being impossible to play once it's transposed... and unfortunately, that solo section on the main theme falls in that category. I dealt with this by putting the first two numbers into the key of Bb instead and playing them on bass clarinet, which makes them tricky but still playable. It means lugging two instruments out instead of one, but there was no way I was going to make that section work otherwise. Ho-hum.

Of course, situations like these always have an upside, and in this case it's that I'm having to get the bass clarinet out and work on my chops a bit, which reminds me of how much I like playing that instrument. It's sort of like the regular clarinet, but with a prettier low register and some extra notes. Mine goes down to low C (low Bb on the piano), though, so there's quite a bit of extra keywork on the bottom that I don't have to cope with on any other instrument, and it's taking up some practice time reminding my pinkies of what all those keys DO. Still, it's fun, and the more doubling I do, it seems, the more I'm called upon to do. Cool.

On other musical fronts, I've taken a hiatus from the Tuesday evening band over at GCC because I got the opportunity (courtesy of a friend) to play bari sax in a really good big band that rehearses at the musicians' union on Tuesday nights. The bandleader has worked as a copyist for decades, and because of that he's got access to one of the the most incredible jazz libraries ever assembled. The guys in the band are also really good players--most are either working pros or have been at some time in their lives--so it's kicking my butt from a playing perspective, but they seem to be okay with what I bring to the section so far. I kinda spend weeks looking forward to Tuesdays rolling around now, but it definitely makes all the practicing worthwhile.
I've also been getting calls to play/sub on the lead alto chair in a couple of bands, which also forces me to develop my reading/phrasing chops to a higher level. It's a little nerve-wracking, but I'm getting more and more confident as I do it. I'm also starting to enjoy playing alto again. Go figure.

With all this music happening it's kind of a drag to have real life intrude, but the fall quarter managed to sneak up on me again and I'm prepping like mad. This term I'm teaching two sections of Strategic Maangement (one in each department, so each has to be prepped separately), and one of Principles of Management. The survey class meets three days a week from 8am-9am, which is going to make things interesting, me being even less of a morning person than most of my students. I may have to open those sessions with a round of jumping jacks or something... we'll see.

More later though--this week is fall conference, which means endless college/department meetings. Argh again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Campus widlife

Over the past several years I've become progressively more allergic to cats. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me from petting any cat that will put up with it. This guy was watching people walk by from a wall next to the theater building. After scratching his ears a while, I sneezed all the way home. :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Must be a popular class!

This guy (or girl) took up housekeeping in one of the narrow windows in my morning classroom and seemed to enjoy watching people at work. We're calling him (or her) Vector.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gotta remember to download those CF cards!

Found this photo from a recent trip to San Francisco--it's the logo from one of the municipal trolleys. I'm surprised it turned out so well, considering I shot it from the car as we were stopped at a light. Canon 10D, ISO100, 35mm focal length, 1/125th at f-9.5

Maximum carnage in a minimum of time...

Visited with my friends Donna and Rick at Donna's mom's house near Phoenix this past Friday night. Kind of thrown together at the last minute, but that's how my social life usually works. So, after playing an outdoor gig in the morning, I ran home, showered, and headed off to the airport. After about an hour in the air, I touched down, rented a car (and by the way, at Alamo Rent-a-Car, a PT Cruiser is among their "compact" models), and soon I was crawling through traffic on my way to the suburbs south of town.

After I arrived, we hung out at the house a while, looking at real estate websites (they're working on a possible move to the area), giggling at lolcats, and having a glass of wine before striking out for dinner about an hour later. The Mexican restaurant we went to was a favorite of Donna and Elinor for their mole, but the place was pretty crowded so we ended up outdoors on the patio. They had great chips and salsa, and we munched those for a while as we ordered a round of drinks. My blue margarita was excellent, and in the 100-degree heat it went down like fruit punch, even though I'd been making a special effort to drink a lot of water all day. After a short while our entrees arrived, and we chatted about business planning as we worked through them. I had the pollo asado with rice and borracho beans, which was very good. Donna's mole was excellent, and I was kind of wishing I'd ordered the same when the weirdness started setting in.

"Weirdness," in this context, is the best term I can think of to describe the general feeling of, "whoa... what the heck is happening to my head?" After confirming with Rick that yes, I was looking a little pale, I tried waiting it out, hoping like crazy I hadn't lost track of how much I'd been drinking and was about to lose my dinner all over the patio. Just in case, I asked Donna to walk with me to the ladies' room. It was a good thing she agreed, too... because she kept me from doing a face-plant moments later, as I unceremoniously passed out.

But wait... it gets better! So I come to and find myself on the tile in the middle of this restaurant. The manager is offering me a damp towel and telling me not to get up so quickly, and I'm thinking, "oh crap... I can't believe I just did that." But I still wanted to go to the ladies' room, so Donna and the restaurant manager (a very nice lady who said this happened a lot) escorted me over, and I soaked up the air conditioning while I tried to clear my head. A few minutes later a team of paramedics arrived, so we moved back out to the patio where they checked me over. My blood sugar was normal and I was starting to feel a bit more together, so we were thinking of just heading for home when the medics asked me if I was okay to walk out to the car. Upon standing my blood pressure and pulse (which were being monitored) both took a nosedive, so on their recommendation I consented to be taken to the hospital. Within minutes I was sporting an I.V., a heart monitor, a pulse/ox monitor, and was being loaded into an ambulance bound for Mercy General Hospital in Gilbert. Not *exactly* how I'd planned to spend the evening.

I was certain I was headed for a lecture about my reckless alcohol abuse, but after a battery of blood tests, an EKG, and a chest X-ray, the E.R. doctors decided that my meltdown was likely the result of a combination of fatigue, low potassium, and being unused to the heat, which were all amplified by the drink I'd had at the restaurant. They dumped about a liter and a half of saline into me, prescribed potassium and sleep, and then turned me loose to go home at about 1:30am. Rick and Donna (who had been incredibly good sports through this whole stupid adventure) drove me back to Elinor's house, and spent a few minutes peeling innumerable little adhesive foil squares off my skin before heading off to bed. What a night.

Given that waste of an evening it would have been nice to stay a little longer, but I didn't really mind going home Saturday and spending the rest of the weekend taking a break from my usual hectic routine. I think that if there were a moral to this story, it's that I'm not 18 anymore and really need to get serious about taking better care of myself. That's a bummer, but as my office-mate once remarked, getting old is WAY better than the alternative.

In the interest of posting a trip photo, though, I give you this shot of Elinor's little whirlwind of a Boston Terrier, Pogo. This year-old terror is almost always moving, and I was actually surprised to catch him taking a momentary catnap the next day. Here he's hoping that his perfect "down-stay" will earn him another game of tug-of-war...

Friday, August 17, 2007

The world's most laid-back airport

But don't tell anybody. Burbank airport is one of the few places I fly from/to where you can show up a half-hour before a flight and still make it. Love the air-stairs, too.
Sorry for the ugly cellphone pic...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I has a carrot!

Every once in a while, the supermarket gets these HUGE carrots, and since everyone in my house is on a never-ending diet, we try to eat as many veggies as possible. The dogs just LOVE these, so they get them as treats. This one kept Punky busy for at least ten minutes... crunch crunch crunch.

Tour de Cure

So here's something cool: my cousins Sara and Anne (they're in the middle, flanked by their friends Bob Avritt and Kathleen Vasa) are going to bike 100 miles on August 25th on behalf of the American Diabetes Association. That's HARDCORE. The most I've ridden in a day has been just shy of 50, and I won't even go into how much my butt hurt after that. To do all the training required for a century ... with a sibling (and they're not allowed to kill one another), and oh yeah... Sara has lived with juvenile diabetes for 14 years now. Wow. That rocks.

Here's their blog. Stop in and send well wishes, and don't forget to make a donation while you're there.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another lunch adventure

This time, I'm posting from Picanha churrascaria in Burbank. If you are unfamiliar with the Brazilian steakhouse experience, this is a must-do. Most include a salad and side-dish bar, and gauchos bring exquisitely-prepared meats to your table. Typically, it's all-you-can-eat. Cheers!

Rest in Peace

Lots of sad news this week: Wednesday, we learned that a wonderful musician and friend, drummer Steve Sykes, passed away Monday after a rough struggle with cancer. Steve was a tremendously musical player, and his creativity on the drums put him on a short list of guys to call for small-combo gigs. He was a really sweet guy to boot, and devoted to his family. He will definitely be missed.

On the heels of that news (literally, that evening), I was had been shaken awake by the small earthquake we had the other night, and on a whim I looked up the website of magazine where one of my scuba industry colleagues was the associate publisher. There, I learned that another old friend, Shawn Beaty, had been killed in a house fire in 2005. I had worked with Shawn and her husband Jerry at two different companies while they were manufacturers' representatives, and although I didn't keep in touch very closely after I left the industry, I knew that they had joined the Dive Training organization and were doing very well. Making matters infinitely worse was the further revelation that this appears not to have been an accident; it seems that her death has been ruled a homicide, but no arrests had been made and authorities have no solid leads. Having known Jerry and Shawn well for several years, I can't even imagine what dealing with this has been like for him... to lose a spouse like that must be indescribable. Inept as I am about stuff like this, I'm stuck wondering whether to get in touch, or what I would say if I did. I don't know if there's anything meaningful I could say at all.

With all this fresh in my mind, the bizarre double-murder/suicide that took place a few blocks away (I was headed off to a rehearsal just as the neighborhood was being besieged with police and the media) was just enough to make me think, WTF? Maybe it's that I live a somewhat insulated existence the rest of the time, but geez... It also has me on a bit of a self-reproach jag; I wonder if I really do deserve to have such a satisfying life when people around me are suffering. I know it's an irrational line of thought, but all this is really pretty weird. Not sure what else to do except not take life for granted.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Lunch in a Blue Buick

Needed a new mouse for the laptop, and while I was at Fry's I stopped in the cafe for a sandwich. The cars are booths; they face a movie screen above the kitchen.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Dinner in SLO

Stopped by Pancho Villa's on the way home tonight, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who loves the authentic taco-stand-style food you find in Mexico. The carne asada tacos and carnitas burrito are excellent!

Friday, August 3, 2007

On the road with the Troubs

Just finished a show with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. The show was a blast--Antsy and his guys are all great musicians, and they've got a very loyal following of "Flamingo Heads" who were all very appreciative. "Loose" Bruce Wandmayer, who plays both tenor sax and slide guitar (how's that for doubling?) got in touch with us a few weeks ago about this show, and it was a lot of fun to play with the band once again. Horns seem to work really well on a lot of their tunes, and it seems like the band likes the added punch. Cool.

Came up I-5 today, and we (all the out-of-town band members) are staying at the Phoenix hotel, a campy little inn in the downtown area. Very hip little place, and a perfect fit for musicians. The Great American Music Hall, by the way, is gorgeous--definitely check it out if you're in town.

There's an after-show party a couple doors down, so I'm going to wake myself up long enough to hang out a bit. Pretty exhausting day...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wow... is July gone already?

Not quite, but I think I see the end of it around the corner.

What's been happening? Got back from Switzerland (had a great last couple of days), got back into classes, was deluged with gigs, got a new scooter, and a massive head cold. That enough?

Where to start? Gigs. Wow. Normally, late July/early August are especially quiet for me, and I was kinda looking forward to lots of practice time. Not this year. Over the last week or so, I've gotten a ton of calls I wasn't expecting, and I'm as close to booked solid as I can get. Upcoming dates that are open to the public are listed in the right-hand column of this blog (hint, hint to music lovers), and those don't include the obligatory rehearsals before many of the gigs. It's fun, though... two musicals, a bunch of big band stuff, and a couple of R&B gigs with Chadwick Williams. On one of the musicals (Oliver), I'll be reading the woodwind IV book, which is a bassoon book. That would be no problem if I played bassoon, but since I don't I'm going to be transposing from bass/tenor clef (both in C), to play the parts on a Bb treble clef instrument. I'm sure I'll be kicking myself later for saying I'd do that, but it's a good skill to develop, so I've already started practicing. I'll have to post again on how it goes.

On the work front, things are going well this quarter. I'm teaching three strategic management classes, and although it's never easy to keep people focused in summer classes (and let's face it--who can blame them?), I've got a nice group and they seem to be enjoying the class. We're pilot-testing a new version of the learning management system (a web-based system that allows me to provide online content, making my class a "hybrid" format as opposed to strictly face-to-face), and although I'm starting to get the hang of it, either the interface isn't as intuitive as the one I'm used to, or I'm just getting brain damaged in my old age. Something simple as quiz feedback suddenly has more options, the flip side of which is having more ways to screw things up. I'll get it, though... eventually.

In the ongoing quest to be greener, we've been taking a harder look at transportation costs and energy use, and with all the driving I do, that's a pretty sobering thought. In an effort to address some of that and have a bit of fun in the process, I started looking around at scooters, and about a week ago we picked out a true geek rocket--a Yamaha Vino 125. This is one of those in-between sized scooters--it requires a motorcycle license, but isn't big enough to be freeway legal. But it's FUN to drive... should hit up to about 55 or so (I'll have to test that once it's broken in), and so far I've been getting around 80-85 MPG. The first time I filled up the tank, it cost a whole whopping $2.40, and it was everything I could do to not dance around the gas station, giggling and pointing at the other drivers. I don't get to ride it at night until I take the skill test for the full license, but for the time being I'm having an absolute ball, taking it to rehearsals (I can't carry anything bigger than the tenor sax, but that still covers a lot) and trying to get a little practice in every day.

Other than that, I'm getting over my latest cold (and this completely sucks in July--thanks A LOT to whomever gave it to me), and gearing up for class tomorrow. Midterm exams are in about a week, so things should be interesting.

Yawn. Off to bed. G'night!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Montreux Jazz Festival: Day two

Day two of the Montreux Jazz Festival, and we had a busy agenda. First stop was a workshop with one of the jazz greats, Quincy Jones. These workshops were free events put on by the festival, and since Quincy didn’t appear to have a particular outline planned for his session, it became more of a question and answer period, facilitated by Claude Nobs, the festival organizer. Audience questions tended to be all over the map; some having to do with breaking into the music (and particularly film scoring) business, and others concerning Jones’ experiences with the “who’s who” of jazz and pop music. Two things in particular resonated with me. The first was that jazz was really a musician’s genre (that is, musicians also make up the core of its audience), and that jazz was a “gumbo” that tended to consume—and be changed by—everything in its path. His other observation—something I need to take more to heart at this stage in my learning curve—was that there was nothing worse than an opportunity you aren’t prepared for. His prescription, of course, was to prepare like mad, and when you’re ready, the opportunities will come. I think I’m gonna write this out and tape it to my music stand at home.

After the workshop, we had a little time before the evening concert began. First up was a duo performance of Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and it would have been great had we not found out upon arriving to the auditorium that the seats we bought (pretty much all that was left at the time) were standing-room-only at the back of the auditorium. That is, behind all the stadium-style seats—and the only real view of the performers were glimpses of them on two large monitor screens up front. It was a big disappointment, mostly because although both Corea and Burton regularly tour in the U.S. and we can see them at home, the same couldn’t be said for the late show—the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band—who we had really made the trip to see. Fortunately, since the big band wasn’t nearly as familiar to the audience as Corea and Burton, at least a third of the people left and we were able to score fourth-row tickets from a sympathetic English couple who wasn’t staying (and if they ever read this, we just can’t thank them enough).

At this point, everything changed for the better, because the George Gruntz band was spectacular. Gruntz is a Swedish composer who writes these unbelievably rich and textured arrangements of his own tunes, band members’ compositions, and a few standards. The band was made up of jazz heavyweights from all over the world; guys like Marvin Stamm and Jack Walrath on trumpet; Dave Bargeron and Earl McIntyre on trombone, Sal Giorgianni and Chris Hunter on sax, Howard Johnson on baritone sax/tuba, Danny Gottlieb on drums… all monsters. They played nearly two hours of the most intense big band jazz I think I’ve ever seen—right up there with the Mingus and Vanguard bands in New York. Some highlights: a killer alto solo from Chris Hunter on So: What (Serious Fun), great trombone solos by Gary Valente and Earl Mc Intyre, and a surprise sit-in by Adam Nussbaum, who happened to be in the audience.

We were so wound up afterward that it was a few hours before we were able to sleep—just a total, life-altering experience.

Just, wow.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

At the Montreux Jazz Festival

Hello from Montreux!

It's a rather soggy city at the moment, but we're here and it's great. Took a cab into Geneva this morning, caught a tram from there back to the main train station, and took a train from there into Montreux, arriving at about 1pm. The hotel is great--right on the water--and includes FAST in-room Wifi access, so I can actually update my iPod and do a bit of rainy-weather web-surfing. Cool.

Spent a little time at the festival today, and I have to admit that I was a little taken aback by something that, apparently, everyone but us already knows: there is precious little Jazz to be heard at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A quick sample of the playbill includes The Chemical Brothers, Placebo, the Beastie Boys, Tori Amos, Jeff Beck, Ricky Lee Jones, the Wu Tang Clan, Sly and the Family Stone... etc., etc. The "surprise" jazz show, announced on the 6th, was Prince. Granted, I would have gone to see him if the show hadn't sold out within minutes, but it's still a little odd to have expected, well.... jazz... and then find out that nine out of ten acts are pop/rap/blues. Clearly this has been the case for years--I don't know why it took me so much by surprise.

Getting over this small prejudice, however, means I can accept the event on its own terms and get back to digging it. Today, we stopped by one of the outdoor venues to see a high school band from Apple Valley, Minnesota, as we had run into the parents of one of the players in the hotel lobby. The band played very well, and it was a kick to hear that their tour would also include performances in Paris and at the North Sea Jazz festival. Kudos to their director for being so ambitious, and to the parents of these kids who apparently served beer at innumerable Vikings games to raise the funds. Those kids are having an experience none of them are likely to forget.

After lunch of a doner kebab (food is shockingly expensive here, which makes fast food WAY more attractive than usual), we wandered around a bit and then came back to the hotel for a nap. Striking out again at about 9pm, we hit the Montreux Jazz Cafe, which is really a pop venue/bar. The lighting was cool, though, and they allowed cameras so I had a lot of fun taking pictures. Some of the early results are posted here; I'm going to have to give a few of these more post-processing attention, but I'll get to it when I'm home.

Tomorrow's agenda includes a workshop with Quincy Jones, the evening concert with Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and a midnight concert with the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. Can't wait!

More later....

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Well, I was *supposed* to have something exciting to report...

But as it turns out, today wasn't that kind of day. One problem with the way this whole trip came together is that we didn't have time to assemble an agenda for our days in Geneva. You know the deal... museums, historic sites... crap like that. We never even got around to getting a guidebook. We had fun, but it's probably not going to be anything worth reading about.

What *did* we do, you ask? (Probably nobody asks that except my mom, but she's also my most avid reader so I might as well cover her imaginary questions.) Well, after managing to sleep a couple more hours, we got up, had breakfast, then went shopping for a short while. I should explain that the hotel we're staying in these two nights is quite a bit off the beaten path to Geneva, but that comes with the excellent trade off of being right across the street from a supermarket and a little Wal-Mart-like place called GiFi. After acquiring staples such as shavers (for me... duh) and water, we deposited everything at the hotel and struck out for town. This involved a walk back to the border, a stop along the way at the fruit stand up the road to satisfy my recent "I-have-to-eat-healthier" needs with some fruit, then on into Geneva by way of the tram. Once we arrived, we did more of what we did last night: hung around the lakeside, peered into shops, had a meal, listened to the music coming from the riverboats... but nothing earth-shattering. Took a short nap in the park (my first picture was actually taken from that spot), fed the sparrows, and just generally enjoyed the great weather. Who says we have to run around at breakneck speed ALL the time?

For those who haven't been to Geneva before (like me, prior to this trip), and who imagine it as a mountainous place where Bavarian-style milkmaids wearing pointy hats carry their produce to the chocolate factories, let me set you straight right now. Geneva is French. As in, France might as well annex the place... just extend that southern border northwest by a hundred miles or so, and you'll get a much more accurate picture of the culture here. Mind you, I don't have any particular problem with it being French, but it's a little odd to think that you're coming someplace different and then discover that you can't tell the two countries apart except by their currency. And the ironic thing about THAT is that Switzerland is still on the Franc, where France is in the E.U. common area and uses the Euro. Go figure.

Of all the productive things we might have accomplished today but didn't, I did learn one thing that I'll share with my fellow Mac addicts: You know those travel power adapters you buy for trips like this so you can run all the electronic crap you can't live without? Well, if you actually bother to read the instructions, you'll find dire warnings against using those things with computers or other electronic equipment that draw more than 50 watts. Since I'm still in the honeymoon phase with my MacBook Pro (not bad, since I've had it over a year now), I was somewhat reticent to test the veracity of that warning, and I was moping a bit this morning about not being able to use the computer I had just carried halfway across the globe. Well, it turns out there was a better solution: at a department stored in Geneva called "Manor," we discovered that Apple makes and sells a "World Power Adapter Kit" that converts standard Apple power adapters, simply by swapping the plugs on the ugly white brick in the power cord. So now, my computer runs on 220 power as though it was designed that way, and as a bonus... they include TWO of each plug, so my iPod power adapter got one too. How totally, utterly cool.

We didn't feel like another trek into town for dinner, nor did we feel up to foie gras or whatever else they were serving in the hotel restaurant tonight, so dinner turned out to be supermarket fare in the hotel room. Specifically, we had salami, tabbouleh, a couple of carrots, bread, and some cheap-but-decent red wine. And it came to about a third of what lunch cost. I wouldn't do this every night... but it was just fine for now.

Off to post this blog and see what's in my e-mail. Bon sois!

Friday, July 6, 2007

On the road again...

Hello from Annemasse, France! We got here at about 2:00 this afternoon, arriving by way of New York, then Geneva, and then by train and tram to the Swiss/French border, which is just about a mile and a half away.

This journey was *almost* uneventful, but as other sojourners can attest, any trip of this length is just, well... literally, a pain in the ass. Connecting in New York helps, since it cuts down on the length of the flights themselves; you end up with about five and a hours to New York, and then another seven or so to Europe. But tack on a couple of ATC-imposed delays: one coming in to JFK that set us back a half hour, then one as we attempted to leave that stranded us on a taxiway for another 2 1/2, and you end up spending one hell of a long time in that cramped little coach-class seat. It's one of those things I conveniently forget a few days after I return home from one of these trips... good thing, too, or else I might never go.

But we made it at last to Geneva airport, and then to our hotel, courtesy of a kindly English gent who volunteered directions when he saw us staring dumbly at the ticket machine in the airport train station. A short train trip into central Geneva and a 40-minute tram ride got us to the border crossing, then a taxi got us the rest of the way.

Immediately after checking we were faced with a difficult decision; when one is hungry, tired, and sticky from travel, which gets satisfied first? Exhaustion won this time; a four-hour nap, followed by a shower, put us back on our feet, and we decided to walk back to the border in search of food. A corner shop we found along the way got us a baguette (my favorite oh-my-god-I'm-starving food while in France), and some soft drinks, and an Italian restaurant just this side of the French border took care of the rest. Afterward, we took the tram back into town, and spent the rest of the evening tiring walking along Lake Leman and peering into shop windows. The weather is absolutely perfect, and flowers are blooming everywhere, perfuming the parks and acting as sort of a olafactory "backdrop" to the swans that were cruising the lake at sunset.

And with that, I think I'll wrap up this post and scrounge around for something to read. It's 5am--gotta love jet lag--and I need something to distract me from wanting breakfast already. Argh.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

No, I'm not getting an iPhone

Right now, I don't see the point. I already have a smartphone that does just about everything the iPhone does; maybe the interface isn't as hip-looking, but it does the job. I also have an iPod, and it comes with 80GB storage, which makes the iPhone's 8GB pale by comparision. I've got a serious concern about battery life, since if I use my mp3 player a bunch and end up with a dead battery it's a mere inconvenience, but if my phone gets laid up for the day, I end up incommunicado for work, which is a FAR bigger problem. But finally, I just don't have any desire to pay upwards of $500 to have to change my current service carrier. AT&T's network coverage isn't as good (especially for data), and there just aren't enough benefits to the phone to make it attractive enough. Sorry Apple--I really am a fan, but this product still needs work.

Given all this, it's probably not surprising that I'm pretty much sick of all the hype surrounding the iPhone launch. This news story, however, cracked me up. The guy was kind of a creep, but this woman sorely deserved to be 0wn3d.

Yawn... off to bed. Class tomorrow...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's I'm listening to right now

Just downloaded "Flow" by trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Billed as one of Jazz's "young lions," Blanchard's CD is a lush suite reminiscent of one of my favorite Metheny CDs, "The Way Up." Check it out if you get the chance.

So, what's today's special again?

This clip was filmed (not by me) at a restaurant we frequent, partially because it's a short walk from home. That being said, I don't think I'm familiar with the special being offered on the day this video was made. video

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Changing old habits...

When New Years' Day 2006 rolled around, I made a simple resolution that I've actually managed to keep: to use fewer disposable cups. Although I'm not a coffee person I do have a daily diet soda habit, and it was starting to dawn on me that if I stacked all the cups I'd get at fast food restaurants (another sad fact of life, given my schedule) over a year, I might just be able to build a tower to the moon. Not cool.

So, I started the easy way--I just began re-using my cups. Soon, it became a habit, and since pretty much every fast food joint around here puts their large soft drinks in the same size 32 or 44 ounce cup these days, lids are almost always interchangeable. While it wasn't the reason I started this, I've discovered that many places will give a discounted price for refills; 7-11 stores, for example, will refill any size drink (up to 44oz) for $.99. So it saves me money, too.

That was the humble beginning of what's now becoming a personal challenge to reduce my resource consumption and, more recently, my carbon footprint. It could be that I've failed to pay attention, but the discussion of environmental issues really seems to have picked up in the last year or two, and it seems like everywhere you look there's a new tip for painless, everyday conservation. So I'm paying attention to little things: walking to errands whenever possible, replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescents, taking shorter (or, um... sharing) showers, and taking my name off junk mail lists. I'm also investigating bigger things like a new fridge (yay for rebates!), and we're on the waiting list for a Smart ForTwo which will replace an efficient-but-aging Toyota. For now, however, I'm just happy making progress in the the little things I do daily.

But before I get off the subject, I have to show off my latest enviro-weirdo accessory. Another resolution I made (this one for 2007) was to drink more water and less crap, which is something I especially have to pay attention to while playing. The predictable side effect to that resolution was an increase in our use of bottled water, since the tap water in my city still tastes kind of weird. That will eventually be solved by filtering at home, but in the meantime I've been buying water in bulk and re-filling my own bottles. My favorite, pictured here, came from Sport Chalet and has survived being dropped a number of times with no ill effect. I think it cost around seven bucks.

Now, go forth and be green!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A belated concert report...

I've been so tied up with work/gigs/Punky these past couple of weeks that I never got around to reporting on the June 3rd concert out at Glendale College. So, without further ado... the show was a blast! For starters, the band performed my very first big-band vocal arrangement, an Afro-Cuban (well, sort of, anyway) interpretation of Henry Mancini's "Charade." Diane Wallace did a great job of singing it down, and while the chart certainly has room for improvement, I'm proud of this first effort and looking forward to doing more writing.

The second half of the concert featured our guest artist, Roger Neumann. One of the veteran studio reedmen here in L.A., Roger has not only played with damn near everyone--he's written music for them all, too. His own band, the Roger Neumann Rather Large Band, is one of those bands that it seems everybody who is anybody has played in (check out his CD on Sea Breeze Records here) ...and on top of all this, he's an unbelievably cool guy.

Whenever we do one of these shows, we typically get the charts a week or two in advance of the concerts. We read them down, play through them with the soloist in our dress rehearsal, and then perform them later in the week. One of Roger's charts was a cool arrangement of Gerry Mulligan's "Cat Walk" that featured tenor and baritone saxes, and At the soundcheckalthough *I* was digging it a whole lot, the show was threatening to go a little long and it seemed like that was the tune that would end up getting the axe. Nevertheless, we ran it at the dress rehearsal with both Roger and I on baritone, and Craig Kupka, the group's director, wanted to keep it in the show. That kinda put me on the hook to work up the changes, so I took them into my lesson and spent some time with them at home later that week. Of course this was right in the middle of finals-week-paper-grading-hell, but come Sunday I felt reasonably prepared, so I poured on the attitude and what do you know...? It actually worked.

Anyhow, a recording of that performance is here in mp3 format. We play the melody with Roger on the top line and me harmonizing below him. I take the first solo chorus, he takes the second (and I gotta cop a couple of his licks... they were great), and then we trade fours/twos on the third chorus with me leading off. Was it flawless? Hell no. But for the first time, I'm actually seeing progress in my playing... like, maybe the work is paying off. Yay me! By the way, the other soloists are (in order): Kendall Wallace, trumpet; Harry Smallenburg, trombone; Richard Tuttobene, piano.

Meanwhile, here's a few upcoming gigs:

Sunday, July 3rd
First Christian Chuch
221 S. 6th St., Burbank
(This is my first solo flute gig, and I'm accompanying the choir)

Tuesday, July 3rd
Big Bad Jazz Band at the M-Bar Hollywood
Corner of Vine and Fountain, 7:30pm
(I'll be playing bari sax)

Wednesday, July 4th
Multiple locations, TBA when I figure out where I'm supposed to be...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The little dog with no eyes

Just an update for Punky's well-wishers: She's doing great, and is getting back to the little hellion of a dog she was a few weeks ago. She's had a bit of local swelling (not surprising when you consider all the connective tissue the eye had to be released from), but she hasn't needed any pain meds today and was up for her usual ride to the donut shop this morning, where she shared a plain donut with Dexter. Since she really shouldn't be left alone much at this point, Punky joined Dexter and me for a Father's Day visit to my folks' house. Judging by her snoring on the dog bed in the next room, she's pretty tuckered out... but I'm glad to see her doing so well and in relatively little discomfort.

Those who might be facing similar challenges with a pet of their own (or, anyone who is just curious) must certainly wonder what a dog with no eyes actually *looks* like, so I've included this picture that I snapped with my cameraphone this afternoon. As one might expect, Punky just looks like her eyes are closed all the time. It's taking a little getting-used to, since even blind eyes help give a dog an "expression" that provides a cue about their alertness/mood. Without them, I'm finding myself paying more attention to Punky's ears; combined with the direction she turns her head, I get an idea of what she's listening to or what she's about to do. Meanwhile, her other body language--putting a paw on my knee, rolling over for a tummy rub, or jumping up and putting her head on my arm--is, of course, unmistakable.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Just when I thought it was safe to relax...

Some vacation week *this* was. Finals were last week, and with everything going on--including some unexpected filling-in for a colleague--I didn't get all my classes' term papers graded. So that, along with all the other end-of-quarter grading I normally have to do, spilled over into this week in a major way. I got everything posted by the deadline, but that required a few *really* late nights that I'm just recovering from now.

Speaking of paper-grading, one problem that I can see has gotten markedly worse is the volume of cheating I'm seeing in class assignments. In fact, I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that plagiarism has now reached epidemic levels. I beg people not to do it; I warn them that I wrote professionally for years and I can spot this stuff (and yes, I check), and I schedule additional office hours the week before case studies are due. In spite of all this, I've found more papers with unattributed copied-and-pasted material than I *ever* have in a single term. One particularly lazy student actually pulled stuff right from Wikipedia and pasted it into his first two pages. I don't know if they think their professors are retarded, or whether they just don't care, but either way, but I'm frustrated with the apathy and especially irritated that I have to waste so much of my time being the plagiarism cop. And since it's clear that many/most of these folks have no intention of actually learning from assignments like this, I don't really see the point anymore in putting us all through the exercise. Instead, I'll make a group strategic plan (which can't be ripped off) more intensive, make it worth more toward their course grade, and then give an objective final exam. Yeah, I realize this amounts to giving in, but I'm not sure what else to do and keep my sanity intact.

On other fronts, the show with Roger Neumann went well, and I'll post a recap of that later. Also recently heard a CD that I played on a couple of months ago (I was sitting in for a friend), and a solo I played sucked *SO* bad that I'm going to pretend it never happened and just move on with life. Right now, though, I'm dog-sitting. Punky, my Springer Spaniel who was born blind from an inherited eye malformation, had a second eye develop glaucoma and had surgery to deal with it this afternoon. The condition is very painful--human sufferers compare it to a migraine headache that never goes away--and treatment in dogs depends largely on whether the dog has vision in the affected eye. If so, medication is typically used keep the intraocular pressure down. When the dog doesn't have vision to preserve, treatment is often more aggressive and ranges from surgery to relieve the pressure, to replacement of the interior of the eye with a prosthesis (which gives the dog a more normal appearance), to enucleation (removal) of the entire eye. Since Punky has been through this once before, the decision to remove her remaining eye was an easy one; she's the kind of dog who pile-drives her way through life, and a useless eye just gets in the way of things like catching rats (yes, really) and terrorizing mailmen. It's also a permanent solution to the constant management of cornea ulcers and secondary infections common with blind but active dogs. She's home from her surgery and in a fair bit of discomfort now, but experience has shown that she'll be back to her evil ways in a day or so. It'll also take some getting used to for me since her eyes are now permanently closed, but I'll figure out a new way to "read" her. I'm just glad she'll be out of her pain.

And on that note, I'm off to cook some doggie dinners. Cheers...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Help save Internet radio!

Musicians and music lovers, listen up!

Internet radio is in danger of extinction. The Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of judges who make rulings on copyright fees for broadcasters, has enacted a set of rules that, if enforced, will likely result in the death of most independent Internet radio stations. From the website:

The future of Internet radio is in immediate danger. Royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling and are due to go into effect on July 15 (retroactive to Jan 1, 2006!). If the increased rates remain unchanged, the majority of webcasters will go bankrupt and silent on this date. Internet radio needs your help! The Internet Radio Equality Act has recently been introduced in both the House (H.R. 2060) and Senate (S. 1353) to save the Internet radio industry. Please call your senators and your representative to ask them to co-sponsor the Internet Radio Equality Act by clicking below.

Ironically, the effects of this legislation will probably be felt most profoundly by musicians, as independent bands/labels depend heavily on the Internet radio stations who would be put offline by the increase in fees. NPR's costs will also skyrocket, which puts additional pressure on a national resource that is regularly threatened by budget cuts.

Please help. Follow the link below and ask your legislator to co-sponsor and/or support the Internet Radio Equality Act. And hurry--as of this writing, Internet radio has about forty days left!


Friday, June 1, 2007

Okay... getting better....

I'm home from playing a gig at the elementary school a couple of blocks away. I remember being that age, and seeing a concert where they demonstrated the instruments, just like we did today. The rest, as they say, is history.

Busy weekend coming up. Saturday we're doing the yard sale fundraiser for Springer Rescue. Saturday night I'm playing a private party with the R&B band. And Sunday, the GCC band is playing a concert (4pm, Glendale College Auditorium) and featuring Roger Neumann as our guest artist. He's a great reed player, composer, and a very cool guy, so the concert should be a lot of fun.

Other than that, just trying to get papers graded and a jump on working out final grades. One more week to go in the quarter, then I'm off for a week. Whew!

Happy weekend to all you working folks, happy retirement to my mom (YEAH!), and a big "hang in there" to my teacher bretheren. Summer is almost here...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stop already!

Look, I know this means little to the rest of the world, but I really just have to practice.

I've got this show coming up where I have to *not* suck. It's kind of a big deal to me. You see, it isn't that everyone's problems/issues/gripes/paranoias are unimportant. It's just that I can't fix them all RIGHT THIS MINUTE, okay?

I just need to practice. Only for an hour or two. Without the urgent phone calls and e-mails telling me that all hell is breaking loose. Okay? PLEASE?!?!?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Spent the morning playing a Memorial Day tribute at a nearby park. One of the speakers commented on the number of townspeople who died in WWII, to the effect that we should be proud of the relative size of our city's sacrifice. It got me thinking about the slippery slope of martyrdom; where, exactly, do we draw the line between self-sacrifice for the values we hold as a nation, and the glorification of these lives lost without an equally critical examination of that expense to our country?

On one point I will agree: these men and women deserve to be remembered for their nobility in ensuring our country's security. However, we owe these most loyal of patriots owe the duty of ensuring that failed policies are acknowledged and changed before more legions of their peers are lost, and before "victory" becomes something that can only be effected by spin doctoring.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Where's the "pause" button?

I need one on my life.

Today was a drag. This is the part of the academic quarter when everything shifts into overdrive. The strategy classes turn in term papers and are doing three-a-day decisions, the Principles of Management class is getting ready for final exams and presentations, and everyone is wiped out from the combination of stress and exhaustion. My final exams are pretty much ready to go, but 2/3 of the term papers I've been expecting just landed on my desk, and it's freaking me out just to see the size of the pile sitting there, knowing that I'll be getting forty more tomorrow. And today is Monday, so I had the six-hour lecture gauntlet to run, which was made immeasurably worse by technological glitches. How can I possibly have tech problems in a classroom setting, you ask? Well, in a 21st-century college of business, it's assumed that we will teach our graduates to use (and stay abreast of) current technology, and as such we try to integrate it in our classes. Trouble is, there's a point at which technology is so much a part of your methods that it's indispensible, and then when you arrive at a classroom to find that the faculty workstation you use for lectures and/or simulation just bought the farm, it can be dammed difficult to improvise something on the spot. This happened to me not once, but TWICE today. It's especially maddening when you see evidence that the system is in the process of being worked on (like, it's in pieces), but nobody thought to warn the professors who were going to have to actually *teach a class* in that room today. Even with a heads-up it still would have sucked, but a few minutes' warning is still better than nothing.

I'm sure anyone who teaches in a K-12 classroom probably rolls their eyes when I rant about stuff like this. And there used to be a time (in my previous life as a corporate drone) when I would have had backups at the ready in case something like this happened. But there's a big difference between putting on a few presentations a year and doing several longer ones each week... I just don't have the time to plan for every contingency like this. Especially when I'm in the last part of the academic term, where there's no room for schedule adjustments. Argh.

I wish I could say that music was going swimmingly by contrast, but it seems that the overload just seems to screw that up, too. This became apparent at last week's lesson, when I just couldn't demonstrate any noticeable progress on some of the things I was working on. Clearly, I just haven't had the kind of practice time I had in previous months, and although the results were certainly predictable, that doesn't make me any less frustrated about the situation. Put simply, I'm burned out, and it's spilling over into EVERYTHING.

But enough of the self-pity, since it's just an unproductive use of even more time I can't spare. There was a Twilight Zone episode once where a guy had a stopwatch that would stop time when he pressed the right button. I used to wonder what I'd do if I had a watch like that. Now I just wonder if I'd have the energy to do anything at all...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Random thoughts on a Friday afternoon...

In no particular order...

1. Contrary to popular opinion, the folks at the IRS really *are* a bunch of ill-mannered thugs who attempt to bluff taxpayers into bending over upon demand (nice try, a$$holes).

2. Auto insurance companies are pretty much in the same league as the IRS, except they use their incompetence as their modus operandi, figuring if they ignore/frustrate you long enough, you'll forget they haven't paid your claim.

3. Friday traffic sucks, especially headed eastbound from LA/Pasadena. And I have to play in Glendora tonight. :(

4. It's the time of year again when working dogs shed the heavy undercoat they've been cultivating all winter. I vacuumed yesterday, and the living room already looks like a raccoon exploded in it.

5. Students never read the syllabi and class schedules provided by their well-meaning-but-hopelessly-unrealistic professors each quarter. And while acceptance of this fundamental truth *should* save me a lot of gray hair and gnashing of teeth when I get the e-mails, it never seems to work out that way.

6. A flat indoor surface exerts a substantially stronger gravitational pull on dust particles than on any other object. Conversely, that same surface tends to repel objects containing high concentrations of sugar, alcohol, tomato sauce, or fragile glass.

Did I mention that Friday afternoon traffic sucks?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The calm before the storm...

This has been sort of a light week. Got through Monday-afternoon-hell, got through Tuesday morning, and got all the online assignments wrapped up by Wednesday afternoon. That leaves prep for next week, which I'll probably get going on tomorrow. I should also work ahead a bit, since the next three weeks are going to be packed. Next week: extended office hourse to work with students on term papers. The following two weeks: grading said term papers (12 pages times 110 students... I don't even want to think about it). After that, final exams and project grading. Maybe I'll be able to sleep again sometime in June...

One of the things I'm using the extra time for is to evaluate new strategic management simulation programs. The one I've been using is buggy and, well.... WAY outdated. So much so that I find myself coming up with ways to incorporate its obsolescence into assignments. Given that technology is a cornerstone of strategy, it's kind of embarrassing--but fortunately, I've been given the green light to adopt another if I choose. Yeah, it's a giant hassle to switch, but I'll live. The other thing I'm doing this week is practicing as much as I can. I probably won't have much time for it in the next couple of weeks, so I'm gonna make some hay while there are still weeds to cut. :-)

Speaking of time management, my iPod has turned out to be a valuable tool in that area, since it helps me be productive during the hour-long (each way) commute to work. Things I wouldn't otherwise do as well as I should--like keep up with news--are easier now since I just download the stuff as podcasts and take 'em on the road. With that in mind, here are a few more reviews/recommendations:

Manager Tools - This podcast by Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne covers a lot of the things young managers probably wish they knew more about, but were afraid to ask. Great listening material for my survey class.

NPR: Car Talk - Finally, the entire show is available by podcast. Yeahh!

NBC Meet the Press - The entire show, in the form of a videocast. Great way to keep up with current events in idle moments.

Science Friday: Making Science Radioactive - Useful science news, some of which has to do with environment and policy. Good stuff.

BusinessWeek Global Outlook: Keeps me well-informed on, well... global business issues.

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Current events having to do with foreign affairs. Very provacative.

... and in the area of disappointments... Video Podcast - For some reason, the black humor that works well in the posters doesn't appear to translate well to video. Probably not worth the download time.

Geek Girl TV - Being one myself, I *really* tried to like this. But after two tries, I can't get through a single episode. Sorry.

All are available on iTunes. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wow... what a week.

There are weeks when you conquer, and others in which you are happy to survive. This turned out to be the latter, but it's Thursday night with a weekend of playing lined up, so all is well. Tomorrow night Chadwick Williams (my R&B group) is playing at the Derby, then Saturday and Sunday I'm playing in the San Diego area with the LAPD Concert Band. That's legit stuff, but it's fun and a good workout for the flute and piccolo chops.

Had a great lesson this morning--went over a couple of uptempo tunes, trying now to apply some of the altered and extended chords I've been working on. It was good to get back to playing tunes--the drills are very useful, but sometimes you just gotta blow. I've also been working a bit on some Bob Mintzer funk etudes--they're challenging, but a lot of fun to play. After getting my tenor worked on and finding a setup that plays well for me I'm starting to get some mojo happening on that horn, so I've been practicing it more these days. It's really cool that all of a sudden, these other things are falling into place so readily. It makes me think the practicing is paying off.

Work is exhausting, but I'm done for the week and in too good a mood to worry much about it. I've been contacted about classes for next quarter, so it would seem that things are going well. If they don't, it won't be for lack of effort on my part...

For now, though, I'm fading fast and need some sleep. Rehearsal tomorrow morning for the shows this weekend... not a bad way to kick 'em off.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And speaking of changes...

...I just gutted my personal website. I've always hated the outdated debris you find scattered around the 'net, and I was getting to be one of the biggest contributors of said detritus. It's kind of sad in a way--kind of like taking a match to a collection of personal mementos--but now I have a fresh canvas to work with when I'm ready to do it.

For the time being, though, I'm busy with working and creating other stuff. This is "Hell Week: Part I" for me in the sense that my ridiculous Monday-Tuesday schedule gets repeated on Wednesday and Thursday--one of three times this quarter. Yeah, I know that normal people (of which I was one once) have to work *five* days a week in some God-forsaken cubicle, and to that I can only reply that two days on my current schedule kick my ass FAR worse than my 9-to-5 ever did. Between those back-to-back classes on Mondays, getting back to campus Tuesday mornings, and creating podcasts/writing exams and assignments/grading papers/revising my classes for summer, I'm whipped come mid-week. Zzzz....

On other fronts, my very first big band arrangement--an afro-cuban interpretation of Henry Mancini's "Charade," seems to be enough of a success that the Big Bad Jazz band will be performing it next week. w00t! If anyone wants to see its debut, come on out!

Tuesday, May 2nd
Big Bad Jazz Band at the M-Bar Hollywood
Corner of Vine and Fountain, 7:30pm
(I'll be playing bari sax)

Which reminds me, I had a *blast* subbing on Boyd Cannon's big band last week. This group plays every third Thursday at the Border's Books and Music in Thousand Oaks, and my buddy Jennifer Hall recommended me to the leader. I'd heard it was a good band (a rehearsal band for a lot of studio guys, I guess) so I was pretty intimidated--especially since I was to play tenor sax, which isn't my main axe. But my pal Jim Mettler, the bestest instrument repair guy in just about the entire world, did some work on my tenor and it was playing SWEEEET that night--all I had to do was push buttons and blow. Anyhow, Boyd said he'd have me back, so I guess it must have sounded okay. Cool.

Much as I'd like to launch into the diatribe about corporate strategy that I've been mulling over for several days now, I'm gonna hold off for the moment and get to bed. It just occurred to me that I'm functioning on only a few hours' sleep from last night, and I think I've finally reached the stage in my life when no sleep=horriffic cold every time I turn around.

Sucks to be old, I guess. But it's better than the alternative.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A few of my favorite podcasts...

Here's what I keep coming back to...

Deloitte Insights Podcast: A great discussion of corporate strategy from the folks at Deloitte. They had a great session on the Strategy Paradox back last February.

Feast of Fools - Gay Fun Show: I'm not sure how to describe this, except to say that Marc and Fausto are really, really funny, and you don't even have to be gay to appreciate this one.

MAKE Magazine: This is a video podcast, generally concerned with weird things you could make in a weekend. These guys sent a balloon up to near-space to get some pictures. They never recovered it, but it's pretty cool that people try stuff like that.

NOVA Vodcast: A great videocast for science geeks.

NPR Car Talk call of the week: I only wish Click and Clack would make their whole show available by podcast. This is sort of a teaser, but it's worth the download.

NPR Wait, Wait--Don't Tell Me: NPR's hilarious weekly news quiz show. The whole show is podcast, and their guests are great.

Pop!Tech Pop!Cast: This videocast series broadcasts GREAT lectures from really smart people. The April 8th episode featured Thomas Friedman on the subject of the current energy crisis.

The CNN Daily: A well-made videocast that catches me up on daily news highlights.

More to come as I discover them...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm such a geek, take XXII...

This time, though, I'm just catching up with the 21st century in the sense that I'm the proud owner of a shiny new video iPod. The 80GB version no less, and boy, is it cool.

I've actually been a bit resistant to the whole iPod/mp3 player movement, mostly because I do the vast majority of my listening to music either in my car or at my desk, and an mp3 player hasn't exactly been the best solution for either. I've used iTunes for quite a while at my desk (I mostly stock it with music from CDs, which has been an ongoing process), and that makes the separate player redundant. In the car, I don't have an mp3 jack, and the quality of the FM transmitters I've tried has been poor enough to turn me off getting a player for that purpose, at least until I get around to fixing the auxiliary input problem--probably, by replacing the car.

What changed everything, as it turns out, was the opportunity to develop a hybrid version of my Principles of Management course this quarter. My plan was to change the class to 50% face-to-face and 50% online delivery, with the goal of keeping people more interested in what can turn out to be some pretty dry material. Since this is an evening class and evening students tend to be especially intolerant of classes that drag on, I decided to replace half the class meetings with a combination of online videos and exercises, and fieldwork. I had a library of videos I was pretty sure I could edit and convert to streaming media, so I pitched the idea to my department chair and she agreed. Cool. Now all I needed to do was figure out how to get the multimedia stuff together.

Enter the analog-to-digital converter (which is an expensive little bugger if you need a Firewire version) and iMovie. It took a little tinkering to get my first very basic conversion done, but I posted the resulting video and was amazed that people were actually able to view it. Over the next couple of weeks they got a little more complicated, with the most recent offering being a series of CEO profiles spliced together from various items in my library using some cool titles and transitions. I also wanted to make this compatible with portable media devices, but I didn't have a test player so I needed to acquire one. Which made it tax-deductible. And the campus bookstore had good prices. Dang.

So... I got the iPod, the usual assortment of necessary accessories, and I've been experimenting. Tranferred my music over in just a few minutes, and tried it out in the car using one of the aforementioned FM transmitters, with predictable results--L.A. has WAY too many radio stations to allow those things to work particularly well. Then I started poking around in areas of iTunes I hadn't explored before... bought a couple episodes of South Park and one of Law and Order, but I realized pretty quickly that downloading TV shows was going to get expensive, and if watching it wasn't a priority at home, why pay even more for the same stuff?

But then, I discovered free podcasts. OMG--a nirvana for nerds.

Took me all of two days to subscribe to at least 35 of these things. And they're GREAT. I've got everything from the BBC morning headlines, to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast, to Geekgirl, Slate Magazine, NOVA Vodcast, and the Gay Fun Show: Feast of Fools (which is a side-splitting talk show hosted by--you guessed it--two gay guys). It's sorely tempting to suddenly turn this whole blog into a podcast review, but I'll try to limit that to notables. Meanwhile, though, I'm glad I found all this, because my commute to work was slowly driving me insane, and for news and talk, less-than-crystal sound quality is perfectly adequate.

In other news, I'm working a lot and practicing as much as possible. Work is definitely interesting this quarter--especially so because I ended up with three back-to-back classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, which means six straight hours in front of students. That is challenging enough, but the room scheduling also puts me in three different buildings, complete with a trek across campus between them. I think the full impact of the awkward logistics hit me this past week, when I realized I could either drop equipment off in my office before my next class *OR* go to the bathroom, but I couldn't do both. Yikes. Could be that my next geeky purchase ends up being a skateboard.

Music is also relatively busy. Terry is throwing some polytonal stuff my way which is hard to get my brain around, but fun to work on. The flute chops continue to improve, and I got to play at the Hollywood Bowl this past weekend, which allowed me to take the ultra-cool backstage photo shown here. But with work as busy as it is, I haven't had time to do all that much else. Maybe next quarter things will slow down a bit.

And with that, I'd better get back to paper grading. Sigh. But no geek's blog would be complete without some random YouTube crap. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sniff, sniff...

I'm fighting a bit of a cold today, so 'scuze me while I go get a tissue.

Classes start next week, and I'm now one term over the one-year mark at Cal Poly. This upcoming quarter, my schedule will include overload for the first time, so I'm fully expecting my life to completely suck at the midterm point when the paper grading kicks in. I won't turn my nose up at the extra money, but don't think I'm not gonna be earning it.

Subbed on a friend's big band last night, and we backed up the jazz legend Ernie Andrews. That dude is a MONSTER... nobody sings like him. Toward the end of the evening he got this monologue sort of thing going... kind of a "I've been doing this for sixty years" stroll down memory land, then out of nowhere, he turned on the afterburners and belted out a magnificent line from the bridge to start off the tune "You Are So Beautiful." I was so blown away I barely made my own entrance a few bars later. Very cool.

Speaking of subbing, though (which I've been doing a lot of lately), I'm filling in on a recording session tomorrow so I'd better go have a look at the music. But first... a few upcoming gigs of note:

Tuesday, April 3rd
Big Bad Jazz Band at the M-Bar Hollywood
Corner of Vine and Fountain, 7:30pm
(My regular bari sax gig)

Thursday, April 5th
Evening dance with Clyde Reasinger's Big Band
Joselyn Center, Burbank CA
(I think I'm on alto that night)

Sunday, April 8th
Hollywood Bowl Sunrise Service
LAPD Concert Band
(My flute gig)

Saturday, May 19th
Chadwick Williams Band at Paladino's
(R&B bari sax... whooyah!)

Sunday June 3rd
Big Bad Jazz Band in concert
with special guest, pianist Shelly Berg
Glendale College Auditorium
(bari sax again)

Feel free to e-mail me for details on any of these shows...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Calling all rail geeks...

Oh boy... a photo database for foamers!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The cat on the piano...

Now we just need to teach her the ii-V-I progression...

Nora the piano-playing cat

An exhausting few weeks

I don't know for sure why I'm blogging about it at almost 4am, but maybe I'm still too wound up to sleep.

Classes are pretty much finished for the quarter--all that's left is to get grades worked out and submitted. Then it's prep for next quarter's classes... one of which is getting a total overhaul. Getting a full night's sleep seems like a distant memory.

On the music front, I'm really busy. Had two R&B gigs this weekend with Chadwick Williams, one at 14 Below in Santa Monica and the other at the Derby on Los Feliz. I keep thinking we're such dinosaurs that people will throw us out of these places, but it seems like this classic R&B stuff really connects with people. Go figure. I'm still doing a fair bit of legit playing--both on clarinet and flute. Jazz is happening, but the bar is being raised in lessons now so I'm spending as much time as possible working on it all. Last but not least, I've been trying my hand at arranging for a couple of the ensembles I'm in, and I'm having some early successes. Two tunes (one significantly better than the other) for the nonet, a couple for Chadwick Williams, and one jazz interpretation of "Amazing Grace" for the clarinet ensemble. It's challenging, but a lot of fun.

Stress on the homefront. Kinda ugly, and I hate being conflicted like this. I guess one of life's harsher lessons is that even with the best of intentions, sometimes everyone loses.

Actually, maybe I always knew that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blog 2.0: Just like plastic surgery, but WAY cheaper!

There should be a shelter for abandoned blogs. Caring people could adopt them, give them baths, and make them feel special again. Then I wouldn't have to feel so guilty about the ones I've orphaned out there in cyberspace. I imagine their little electrons glowing as they hope someone will come post, but alas... they're left to gather... well... the virtual equivalent of dust. Whatever that is.

Current events: Um, lots of stuff. Maybe this topic needs subheadings...

Current events-->Work: Have a stack of midterm reports on the desk that measures out to about four inches high. Let's see here... assuming an average paper weight of around 24 pounds, that yields an estimate of just under a thousand pages of stuff to read and grade by Tuesday. Should keep me out of trouble this weekend.

Current events-->Music: Been playing quite a bit. Highlights include a disaster of a gig at Disney's California Adventures Park (I'll skip the depressing details--suffice to say I'm boycotting anything Disney these days), a couple of R&B shows, a bit of big band playing, and, more recently, some legit playing on--gasp--my flute. I'm still practicing as much as humanly possible--it never seems to be enough to make the kind of progress I'd like to be making, but it'll have to do. Also started working on my jazz with Terry Harrington recently, which is both mind-expanding and frustrating. He's got an intriguing approach to harmony and this innate sense of groove that can make simple improvisations mesmerizing. Trouble is, that stuff is HARD to learn--at least for this relative latecomer to jazz--and I often find myself wondering if I'll ever be as fluid with my ideas as, well... anyone who knows what they're doing. Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to keep practicing, so that's what I do.

Current events-->General. We're still at war. Some dead celebrity who I couldn't care less about is still dominating the headlines. Democratic hopefuls are already slinging campaign mud at one another. And I don't know why I even bother reading the news anymore--nothing ever seems to change. The inane "random question" Blogger provides for our user profiles makes about as much sense.

By the way...

Gig alert:
2/24/07 (Saturday) 7:15pm
The Mint Los Angeles
w/ Chadwick Williams

R&B. Me on baritone sax. OPEN BAR from 8-9pm. What else could ya want?