Saturday, February 26, 2011

On finding my music..................

It was early  morning on a long ago and chilly winter day.  While out walking on the bike path, I was giving exercise to my lament muscle, wishing things were true that weren't.  One of my laments was over my perceived absence of any musical ability.  Then, as the sun tried to peek through the cloud cover, the thought arose:  I'm 45.  If I started playing the saxophone now, and practiced regularly, I could be good enough when I was 65 to play in cheap honky-tonks and dives.  (Read Vonnegut's The Foster Portfolio to understand the attraction.)

Inspired by that vision, I called my friend John Carson, a fine sax player.  He said that I could do it, and that I should go see Doc Becker at Martin Music.  Doc had a used tenor sax for sale for $850 and it would be perfect for me.  Sharing this story with my dad, he responded, "Well, Christmas and your birthday are coming up.  If you want, we will pay half."    Which is how I came to own a shiny, slightly used, tenor sax.

Some background information may help fill in the story.  Fifth graders at Penn Valley Elementary School were required (in 1961) to either sing in the choir or play in the band/orchestra.  The choirmaster kindly suggested I think about choosing which musical instrument I would like to play in the band.  The saxophone sounded good to me, until I looked at a picture of one in the dictionary.  So many keys.  Then I looked at a picture of a trumpet.  Three keys.  On that basis. I became a trumpet player. One who didn't like it, who never practiced, and who therefore wasn't very good. At that point in my life, the idea of the importance of mastering the scales didn't penetrate.  In junior high, Mr. Epstein, the band teacher, perhaps sensing I could do less damage to his band,  moved me to the baritone.  But he didn't move my attitude towards the whole exercise.  I'm not sure who was more relieved when I was no longer subject to the music requirement and stopped playing.  If I had to guess I'd say it was my mom.

So at the age of 46, I started taking weekly saxophone lessons at Martin Music.  Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.  Makes a bit of a difference in teachability.  Kept taking lessons for almost two years, practicing for at least 15 minutes on most evenings.  Not enough for mastery, mind you.  But in terms of enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, it was perfect.

I thought about all this as I picked up the sax, for the first time in more than a year, this evening and noodled around on it.  The scales are rusty, but accessible if I choose to practice them.  I ran through a few scales and then played a few of my favorite tunes - having to check the finger positioning more than a couple of  times -  with a minimum of missed notes.

My lament muscle does not get much exercise these days.  As the prayer goes, I've learned to accept what I can't change, and change what I can.  My brief foray as a saxophonist was a sufficient scratching of my musical ability itch.  Perhaps more important were three lessons learned as a by-product of that scratching:  that the price of being good at something is the willingness to be bad at it at first, that I can change me- should I choose to do so, and that the list of things I "can't do" is mostly self-imposed.

The chances are excellent that I will not be playing in cheap honky-tonks and dives when I turn 65.  But it will be because of my choice.  Meanwhile, the instrument sits patiently waiting.  Never accusing, but always available.  

A pretty significant return on an $850 investment.

Happy Birthday to "the Great One".......

Jackie Gleason, actor/comedian, was born this day in 1916.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Thanks Gerard

Dating advice for my daughter...........

Does this look sustainable?

I know I posted the cartoon below the other day, but it just
seemed to be a matched pair with the chart above.

Thanks to Carpe Diem for the chart

Some quotes..................

As important as your past is, it's not as important as
the way you see your future.

The secret of encouragement is hope.

Speak up TODAY and say something positive.  Even
a tombstone will say something good about people
when they are dead.

People go farther than they thought they could
when someone else thinks they can.

The distance between ordinary and extraordinary is
shorter than you think.

In relationships, receiving is easy.  Giving is much
more difficult.

Every person wants to be affirmed.  Every person
wantsto be loved.  Every person wants to be well
considered.  That is true from the smallest of
children to the oldest adults.

Even the smallest acts of kindness and encouragement
can multiply in the lives of others, snowballing into
something bigger than we ever could have imagined.

All quotes from John C. Maxwell
Encouragement Changes Everything

George Harrison.........................

"It's being here now that's important. There's no past and
there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is
ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but
we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we
don't know if there is one."

"It's all in the mind."

"With every mistake, we must surely be learning."

"The Beatles saved the world from boredom."

Happy Birthday George.

Small businesses rock.................

Ben Casnocha say entrepreneurs are not all created equal.  Here

"The happiest entrepreneurs I've met are the small business

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One of my favorites...........


The Head Butler talks of John Coltrane - here

“I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening
which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.
At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the
means and privilege to make others happy through music.
I feel this has been granted through His grace.”

Happiness is...................

Thanks to the Mighty E.

Besides, innuendos are more fun...............

To veil or not to veil, that is the question...................

It's an interesting offer...............

............but probably too far to commute.  Detroit works to solve
a problem.  Give Dave Bing a salute for trying.  Story here.

A teachable moment.............

Stowe Boyd, a webthropologist, offers an interesting essay
on  "Another Lesson About Cognition And The Web: Lara
Logan And Hate."     here.   Excerpts here:

There is buried network of spurious arguments underneath all the comfortable hatred of incivility, here. There is an assumption that the web is supposed to be a force for good, and only good. Who says? And secondly, that those that use the web are in some way a collective entity, a global society with shared beliefs, including various democratic ideals. These unstated assertions are deeply and profoundly wrong, but taken as a given in anti-web circles.

We have built the web to connect to ourselves, and it’s not designed to filter any demons out of our minds.

What the web does do, and what leads to Dowd and Carr’s web-bashing, is to relax the strictures imposed by social order. Carr, Dowd, and other professional finger-waggers were raised in an era when professional, corporate media controlled public discourse. They determined what was fit for the front page, or got into the classifieds. They decided what ‘balanced and fair’ meant. They determined whose voices were authoritative, which positions were legitimate, and what stories should be squelched.

That has been undone, and now all sorts of perspectives can rise to our attention.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It probably merits the 98,508,000 clicks ..............

On Encouragement...............

"Those who believe in our ability do more than stimulate us.
They create for us an atmosphere in which it becomes easier
to succeed."
-John H. Spaulding

"Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly
and they will show themselves great.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his neck
saying 'Make Me Feel Important!'  Never forget this
message when working with other people."
-Mary Kay Ash

"The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer
everybody else up."
-Mark Twain

"Few things in the world are more powerful than a
positive push.  A smile.  A word of optimism and hope.
A 'you can do it' when things are tough."
-Richard M. DeVos

"Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by
another human being.  Each of us owes deepest thanks
to those who have rekindled this light."
-Albert Schweitzer

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you.  Criticize me, and
I may not like you.  Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I will not forget you."
-William Arthur Ward

"How do you identify someone who needs encouragement?
That person is breathing."
-Truett Cathey

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just share
your riches, but to reveal to him his own."
-Benjamin Disraeli

"Encouragement is oxygen to the soul."
-George M. Adams

All quotes lifted from Encouragement Changes Everything

A path to success.............

......or, denial versus progress.

A Prayer from George Washington.....

"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation."
-George Washington, From a letter  "Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army, June 14, 1783"

Thanks Hal

Calvin is probably right...............

An interesting baptism......

Kurt Vonnegut in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater says,

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and
cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the
outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here.
There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it,
you've got to be kind."

full post here
HT  Sully

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

.....she makes me come alive.......

An observation.................

"I hate Ohio's weather.  It is so bi-polar."

The Born to Win Seminar............

The mailman brought an invitation from the folks at Nightingale-
Conant, offering the opportunity to invest in The Born to Win
Seminar:  The Ultimate Zig Ziglar Library.  A 15 CD and
3 DVD collection, plus workbooks.  Here

I have long been a Zig Ziglar fan.  It has been a while since I
last listened to his cassette tape series Born to Win: Volume 1.
I suspect those tapes are 25 years old now.  Cars no longer
seem to have cassette tape players in them, so it is a bit more
challenging finding time and a way to listen in.  Hmmmmm.

In case your are not familiar with Zig, below are a few of his
more quoted sayings.  These should give you and idea of
what Zig Ziglar is all about.

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help
enough other people get what they want.

Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute
sense of mission.

The world's most deadly disease is "hardening of the

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as
what you become by achieving your goals.

The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire
arsenal is integrity.

Success means doing the best we can with what we have.
Success is the doing, not the getting — in the trying, not the
triumph. Success is a personal standard — reaching for the
highest that is in us — becoming all that we can be. If we do
our best, we are a success. Success is the maximum utilization
of the ability that you have.

Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what

People who truly understand God's purpose for their lives know
that we are called to be intimately involved with one another.

If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very
scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.

Political Correctness, circa 1876..........

In 1848 Nathaniel Currier published this lithograph of George
Washington raised a toast to his officers as he says farewell to
them at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  Notice the
decanter on the table and the small glass in Washington's right

Washington's Farewell to the Officers of His Army

In 1876, Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives re-issued the
print as part of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of
Independence.   However,  the Temperance movement was in
full swing.  Alcohol was not to be portrayed in a favorable light.
The easy solution........take the mirror image, cut off a few
fingers, put a hat on the table in lieu of the decanter, and voila -
no demon rum in sight.  Currier and Ives take a problem and with
a bit of the quick change artist convert it into a best seller.  That
they were fiddling with history, not to offend
the Temperance folk.
Washington's Farewell to the Officers of His Army

Thanks to Daniel Okrent for the head's up

Poor Richard probably wasn't......

Content and Riches seldom meet together,
Riches take thou, contentment I had rather.

Speak with contempt of none, from slave to king,
The meanest Bee hath, and will use, a sting.

The sleeping Fox catches no poultry. Up! up!

If you’d be wealthy, think of saving, more than of getting:
The Indies have not made Spain rich, because her Outgoes
equal her Incomes.

Who is strong? He that can conquer his bad Habits. Who is
rich? He that rejoices in his Portion.

What you would seem to be, be really.

Make haste slowly.

Industry, Perseverance, & Frugality, make Fortune yield.

Sloth (like Rust) consumes faster than Labour wears: the
used Key is always bright.

As Pride increases, Fortune declines.

Drive thy Business, or it will drive thee.

The same man cannot be both Friend and Flatterer.

The Things which hurt, instruct.

If you’d be belov’d, make yourself amiable.

A true Friend is the best Possession.

Beware of little Expences, a small Leak will sink a great Ship.

No gains without pains.

To God we owe fear and love; to our neighbours justice and
charity; to our selves prudence and sobriety.

Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.

He that resolves to mend hereafter, resolves not to mend now.

From Poor Richard's Almanack, here
Thanks to TigerHawk for pointing the way.

Alex, I'll take Sanity for $800 please.......

Thanks Ka-ching!

The Law of Unintended Consequences......

    "The most surprising foreign expression of the prohibitory
impulse came in a decree issued by Czar Nicholas II in
October 1914: from that point forward, it declared, the sale
of vodka was forever banned throughout the Russian Empire.
He may as well have ordered fish to leave the ocean.  Within
a year of the decree, a Petrograd newspaper reported that
'tens of thousands of illicit distilleries' had opened for business.
In the United States, however, Nicholas's action was exalted
by a spectrum of drys that ranged from the Women's Christian
Temperance Union to radical elements of the labor movement.
In 1919 the Central Labor Council in Tacoma would even
attribute the success of the Russian Revolution to an unexpected
by product of the czar's ruling: a clearheaded proletariat, no longer befogged by alcohol, was at last able to rise and throw off its chains.  This was not entirely fanciful; Lenin himself said that 'to permit the sale of vodka would mean one step back to capitalism.'  It wasn't until 1923, six years after the fall of the Czar, that spirits containing more than 20 percent alcohol were again made legal in the Soviet Union."

Excerpted from Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Monday, February 21, 2011

...and tenderly.......

It's that time of year.................

Thanks Don

Linky goodness....................

Blake Hounshell sets forth five myths about Egypt's revolution. 
Excerpt here: Until it became obvious to all that Mubarak was
going down, the United States looked as if it was still trying
to thread the needle, balancing its strategic ties to the regime
with its genuine desire to see the Egyptian people's
aspirations fulfilled. In the end, those positions proved
impossible to  reconcile.  Full essay  here.            
Editorial comment here: Everything I learned as a history major
tells me it is way too soon to be certain about anything here, but
it sure is interesting watching it unfold.

Don Surber tells Ezra Klein he's wrong.  Excerpt here:
Collective bargaining? Someone clue him in on the joke.
Collective bargaining has not been going on in any of the
states for years. No one represents the public at these
sessions. Unions back Democrats, elected Democrats give
unions the store.  Full post here.

Greg at Sippican Cottage reviews Leonardo's resume.  Excerpt :  
Because I'm a half-assed polymath, or maybe more like a low-
budget and shabby Competent Man (I'm bad at all sorts of
things, and proud not to limit my substandard efforts to one
mess at a time), I always find people like Leonardo and Ben
Franklin, or especially fictional characters like P.G.
Wodehouse's Jeeves, to be fascinating archetypes...........It's
instructive that they tend to be remoras to the big fish in this
world. There's a certain amount of gravitas that bigshots
have that escapes the polymath. The Renaissance man flits
from one preoccupation to the next, while the Napoleons and
the Washingtons of the world concentrate on their one big
idea.  Full post here.

Tom Asacker offers a cure for Molehillism.  Excerpt here;
Are you preoccupied with to-do lists, spreadsheets, and
schedules? Is your day filled with routines and rules? Do you
spend more time creating reports and attending meetings,
than perfecting your craft and engaged in the world of your
audience? Congratulations! You’re a molehill man (or
woman).   Full post and cure here.

"It is easy to take a photograph........."

Nan reminds us that yesterday was the birthday of Ansel Adams.
"His lasting legacy includes helping to elevate photography to
an art comparable with painting and music, and equally
capable of expressing emotion and beauty. As he reminded his
students, "It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to
make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art

To celebrate his genius, a handful of his photos.   Enjoy!

All photos from the National Archives - here

A poem for Monday........


              The Home

If my body is my home
what is this house full of blood
within my skin?  I can't leave it
for a moment but finally will.  It knows
up and down, sideways, the texture
of the future and remnants of the past.
It accepts moods as law no matter
how furtively they slip in and out
of consciousness.  It accepts dreams as law
of a different sort as if they came from
a body well hidden within his own.
He says, "Pull yourself together," but he
already is.  An old voice says, "Stay close to home."

-Jim Harrison

My sweetie and I went............ the movies this weekend.  We saw The King's Speech.
It was fabulous.  Four thumbs up.    Do go see it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011 on your brother............

Rob took a few weeks off, but.........

He is back, at full sail.  It was worth the wait.  Here

Advice to the church........................

"Live the gospel, use words if necessary."
-Bonnie Perry (channeling her inner St. Francis of Assisi, who is
quoted as saying, "Preach the gospel always, If necessary use

On Eating Honey.........................

     "When Li was a child, he left home to follow some
wandering herbalists.  In the mountains of China, he learned
from them some of the secrets of the earth's medicine.  In
addition to using various rejuvenative herbs daily, he
practiced Taoist exercises, believing that exercise which
strains and tires the mind and body shortens life.  His favorite
way of traveling was what he called 'walking lightly.'  Young
men who went with walks with him in his later years could
not match his pace, which he maintained for miles.  He
advised those who wanted strong health to 'sit like a turtle,
walk like a pigeon, and sleep like a dog.'  When asked his
major secret, though, he would reply, 'inner quiet.'

     "Speaking of the sort of thing, let's return to The House
at Pooh Corner.  Christopher Robin has just asked Pooh a

         "'What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?'

         "'Well,' said Pooh, 'what I like best ---' and then he had
          to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a
          very good thing to do, there was a moment just before
          you began to eat it which was better than when you were,
          but he didn't know what it was called."

     "The honey doesn't taste as good once it is being eaten;
the goal doesn't mean as much once it is reached; the reward
is not so rewarding once it has been given.  If we add up all
the rewards in our lives, we won't have very much.  But, if
we add up the spaces between the reward, we'll come up
with quite a bit,  And if we add up the rewards and the
spaces, then we'll have everything - every minute of the time
we spent.  What if we could enjoy it?"

Excerpted from The Tao of Pooh

On the restless mind..............


Krishna, you describe this yoga as a life of union with
Brahman.  But I do not see how this can be permanent.
The mind is so very restless.

          Restless man's mind is,
          So strongly shaken
          In the grip of the senses:
          Gross and grown hard
          With stubborn desire
          For what is worldly,
          How shall he tame it?
          Truly, I think
          The wind is no wilder.

                          Sri Krishna:

Yes, Arjuna, the mind is restless, no doubt, and hard to
subdue.  But it can be brought under control by constant
practice, and by the exercise of dispassion.  Certainly, if a
man has no control over his ego, he will find this yoga
difficult to master.  But a self-controlled man can master
it, if he struggles hard and uses the right means.

VI. The Yoga of Meditation
The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita

A mysterious thing.........

"Buddha is always helping you.  But usually we refuse
Buddha's offer.  For instance, sometimes you ask for some-
thing special.  This means you are refusing to accept the
treasures you already have.  You are like a pig.  When I was
young, as my father was very poor, he raised many pigs.  I
noticed that when I gave the pigs a bucket of food, they
would eat if after I went away.  As long as I was there, they
wouldn't eat it, expecting me to give them more food.  I had
to be very careful.  If I moved too quickly they would kick the
bucket over.  I think that is what you are doing.  Just to cause
yourself more problems, you seek for something.  But there is
no need for you to seek for anything.  You have plenty, and
you have just enough problems.  This is a mysterious thing,
you know, the mystery of life.  We have just enough
problems, not too many or too few."

-Shunryu Suzuki,  Crooked Cucumber