December 23, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside.

Freshly Fallen

I guess I haven’t wandered by here in a while,
and so much for occasional short entries. Maybe over the holidays I’ll be able to do that, because I certainly haven’t been able to do so this past week or so.

The big talk of the last several days has been the weather. Since Sunday two weeks ago, we have seen pretty much every variety of weather that one might typically experience in late New England fall, giving credence to that old adage, attributed to Mark Twain ‘If you don’t like the weather in (fill in the blank) wait ten minutes”. We started off the week with subfreezing weather and a dusting of snow, or first of the season, that was followed by a couple of days of warm but very windy weather reaching nearly 60°F. just when we were getting used to that, the temperature dropped again into the low 40’a and we had 3 days of drenching rain (and I cleaned the downspout again this time it finally took). To the north and west of here the temperatures dropped to subfreezing while the rain continued to fall, resulting in a treacherous ice storm, with the rain freezing on trees wires, cars and roads, making travel dangerous and taking down power lines all over the region leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. Some of these people are still with out power almost a week later.

The ice storm was followed by another short warm spell with temps again getting into the 60’s. It was small relief for those who were suffering from the ice storm in that as it thawed all the ice on the trees branches, some of them sprung back from the reduced weight of the ice and took more power lines out. Here in the city, that wasn’t an issue, and we had a couple days of sunny warm weather. We got right back to the usual wintry fare. We woke to about an inch of snow on the ground today but as the sun came up the falling snow turned to sleet and freezing rain. You've gotta love New England.

Addendum: I started writing this a few days ago and got sidetracked with other things. Since then we have had a double whammy of winter storms. As winter started Friday so did the winter weather with a snowstorm blowing in a little afternoon (fortunately, after the completion of Yule Fest at the boys school.) It snowed pretty much for 48 hours; the first portion dropped about 8 inches over night and into Saturday morning. The pace of the snow letup after that but continued to fall until Sunday evening, adding another 4 inches on top of what was already there. I was able to get the car dug out for our Saturday night outing to see Ritchie Havens at the MFA. The additional snow thru Sunday made the side streets more impassable, so our planned shopping trip was made by via the T. It was not a bad idea over-all but it slowed the travel portion of the trip considerably both due to the weather and the fact that far fewer trains run on Sunday than do in weekdays. By Sunday the temp had dropped in the 20’s and the snow had changed from fluffy places to little wind driven ice balls, which made the trek to and from the subway unpleasant to say the least.

That takes us to Monday when the sun came out but the temps are now in the teens at night and 20’s in the daytime. The sidewalks are now slick with ice. (I should have shoveled one more time after we got back from shopping.) And there are huge ice cycles forming on the west side of the house where the sun hits it during the day and melts the snow on the roof. I dug out the car (again) and shoveled out a space for it down the street away from the house. The last time we had big ice cycles form one of them broke loose and was launched by the slope of the mansard roof square into the windshield of the car breaking it. I don’t need that again. It is supposed to warm up to the 40s on Christmas Eve, and maybe rain. Just imagine the mess that is going to make.
Waiting for the sun.

Waiting for a plow.

December 8, 2008

Catching up

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, life has been pretty busy in the previous couple of weeks, and I hardly had time to sit and write, let alone do much else. The last event of the term was last night, another dance / variety show presented by a student organization. Classes end Monday. So now that life has calming down a little I have time again and I thought I would go back and revisit some of the things that have happened while I was too busy.

It is now a quiet Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting here watching the first snow of the season falling, the forecast if for just a light dusting up to as much as an inch. It is definitely a sign of the season to come, but as we already had a few inches on the ground at this time last year, I am not feeling too bad about it.

So let me see if I can remember a few of the significant events of the last couple weeks.

Several months ago I had posted a video on Youtube of the boy and his guitar classmates performing a piece called Tutu Tango at their spring guitar recital. It is a fun piece that they really like to play and they were dead on for the performance. I posted it mostly for a family and a few friends to see, and I think it had a total of maybe 35 hits after 5 months. A couple weeks ago, I got a Youtube email that some one had saying that I had a comment on the video, and an email in my Youtube inbox. The email and the comment were from the composer of the Tutu Tango, one Derek Hasted (fortunately I had credited him in the video when I posted it), commenting on how much he enjoyed the performance. In addition he also posted a link to the video on the website of the Hampshire Guitar Orchestra in Hampshire England for which he is the musical director. So the video of the boys went ‘viral’ and in the course of a couple of days is suddenly had over 250 hits. Not spectacular, but not bad for a classical guitar video featuring four 13 year old boys. I let their guitar teacher and the parents of the other players know what had taken place, and they were all thrilled to have been noticed by the composer.

I posted the video in my old Yahoo360 blog, but here is it again for all my new readers… (A little joke there.)

I think that I mentioned that the boy was in the school musical, Into the Woods, in which he played the Baker. I did manage to find time to see the show between all the events that I had to tend to at work. I was a ‘proud dad’ by the end of the performance. The role of the Baker is big role and a tough one to play and he did an admirable job. He had complained in the past about only getting small roles in the plays, so this was his big chance to shine, and he really stepped up to the challenge. Not only did he have to sing a couple of solos, but there is also a love song duet with the bakers wife in which they must sing to one another at the same time that they are holding hands, ending in a final embrace. I must say that both performers pulled that off well, which can be difficult for some adults, let alone 13 year olds. The two of them managed to reach a level of reality that seem to show real emotion and affection. Bravo to them both. The boy definitely knows how to find the ‘moment’ as it is called, where character and motivation come together to give a performance its reality.

Next play up is a Midsummer’s Night Dream he has his eye on several roles in that. There is Puck of course, as well as Oberon, and Bottom, he could probably have his pick of roles, I think his Puck is tops on the list followed by Bottom. We will see how it shakes out; auditions are this week.

As I mentioned, that previous couple of weeks were very busy at work with several performances each weekend, most of them are student variety / dance shows, and frankly they all start to look and sound the same. The one event that did stand out was the music department’s gospel choir concert. It is notable not only for the great music, but also for the shear size and power of the group. It has grown dramatically in the last couple years from about 90 students to over 200. Part of the rehearsal earlier in the day was spent just getting people on and off stage quickly. The theatre capacity is just over 600, and the gospel concert always sells out, with little back stage space available the singers have to enter through the aisles very quickly as to not create a safety hazard. Fortunately that all went well, and the concert was a big success.
A Packed Stage
So that is the highlights from the previous couple of weeks. We are back to normal life such as it is, and I will resume posting and pissing and moaning as before. I think I will try to do shorter entries, with single topics and see if that works better.

December 1, 2008

I have been neglecting this blog of late. Last week I was hitting the crest of the wave of all the student performances in the theatre and it was keeping me late at work in the evening and as a consequence I wasn’t getting the requisite 5 hours of sleep a night. That has now passed, and I think I better put in some effort here.

We had a very pleasant and somewhat quiet Thanksgiving. The holiday actually stretched over the better part of 5 days for some of us. Father in Law came up from New York City, as is the tradition here for the last 5 or 6 years. He arrived on Tuesday evening, as Wednesday was ‘Grandparents Day’ at the boy’s school. The school invites the grandparents to the student’s classes and has special presentations for them. The boy enjoys it, and I think he likes the surprise when they see his grandfather. Although the boy resembles his grandfather, he doesn’t have grandfathers darker Native American / African American complexion. This was the source of some embarrassment for one of his teachers, who assumed that the boys’ grandfather was connected to his seatmate who is African American. The teacher was passing out completed assignments to the students, and suggested that the boy’s grandfather should check out the seatmates work. There was a flash of realization the teachers part that he had made a bit of a faux paux, he laughed a bit smile and apologized to all involved. No offence was taken, he is a good teacher, and it was an easy mistake to make given the circumstances. Father in law had great fun in relating the story later when he and the boy returned to the house.
Grandparent’s day was a half-day event, so I took it upon myself to take the day off, and Mrs. had a short day as well. So following the festivities we decided to get the jump on Black Friday and make a purchase at Best Buy.

Some time ago Mrs. had decided that the boy needed a new computer even though he has two on his desk. One is an old iMac that he uses primarily to watch movies, and the other is a slightly aging windows machine that has become infected numerous times with malware and god knows what, and has taken far too much time and energy to be cleaned up. With this in mind Mrs decided that he needed a Mac laptop in so much as we know that Mac are great computers, and his school supplies Macbooks for the kids to use in study hall etc. Now buying a new computer is not in our budget at this time, but somehow Mrs. had talked her father into purchasing one for the boy as a Christmas gift. We did our research and found that Best Buy was having a one-day only sale and they were knocking $100 of the price. The best part was that one could order the machine online at any give store that had them in stock and pick it up later in the day. And that we did. Best Buy is always an adventure, I find it to be total sensory overload, but of the sort that is addictive. We made our primary transaction, and then wandered the store looking at all of the stuff that we would never buy but marvel at the technology. I admit that I scoped out the 5.1 channel tuner amplifiers. We have had a wide screen TV for some time that is HD compatible, and it is on my list to one day up-grade the sound system. Pant, drool, you know how is it with boys and their toys.

The big debate was whether to wait ‘til Christmas to give the computer to the boy, or give it while Grandfather was in town. When we arrived home I went upstairs to my office to put things away, and when I returned to the living room, I found the decision had been made, the box was open and the boy’s eyes were a-glow. This would be the way we would see the boys face for pretty much the rest of the weekend a-glow and facing the computer screen.

Thanksgiving day was quiet and as is the usual case. Other than FiL neither of us have family close by so the holidays are usually pretty low key. (One of the things that brought us to Boston besides jobs was the fact that Mrs.’ sister and her family loved here, unfortunately they moved after we were here for a couple years.) We had a small 9lbs turkey, and a variety of dishes that reflected the Native American culture, including the ever-popular succotash. For turkey dressing Mrs. improvised using a mix of wild, white and brown rice and dried cranberries for a very tasty concoction. My contribution was the rolls, made from scratch using potato dough. They didn’t rise as much as they should have, but they were still tasty. The day itself was pretty uneventful we didn’t remember to watch the parade, and none of us are sports fans so it wasn’t football and chip day either. We just mostly hunkered down and watched the rainfall. What is it with rain in the holidays anyhow? I have to admit that I miss the big family gatherings on Thanksgiving, although it has been many years since I have been to one. As A kid I remember gatherings on my mothers side of the family that involved all her siblings and their children. We would rent a hall and there would be upwards of 50 people or more.

In spite of the bad weather and the bad economy we have much to be thankful for this year. I am most thankful that we have elected a president who seems to want to do something for the working people of this country, and get the country back on track nationally and internationally. I feel like the last 8 years have been something of a bad dream. Hopefully the dawn is coming soon. We have a roof over our heads and good jobs and a family that loves and cares for one another, after that, the rest is gravy.

The rest of the holiday weekend passed at a pretty leisurely pace. I had vague plans of getting in some culture, like going to a museum of something, but weather and general inertia played against us, plus we couldn’t get the boy’s face out of the new computer. We did celebrate Black Friday by doing our monthly Costco run. We only splurged on a few items; the boy did manage to convince grandfather to purchase him a game for his Wii however. Come to think of it the Wii was grandfathers gift to the boy last Christmas! Maybe grandfather is becoming an enabler. Hmm. So between the Wii game and the new computer, there was almost no way to get the boy out of the house.

The boy’s friend from school did rescue us by inviting him to go to the movies on Saturday afternoon, so we did have a few hours of peace and quite with no television and no computer. I think we just blessed out on silence and privacy, grandfather having left for NY earlier in the day. Rain began to fall late Saturday night and continued unabated through the next day, which kept us pretty much hunkered down in the house all day. That isn’t a bad thing, but it doused my hopes of a getting a little ‘culture’ and I had hoped. Oh well, maybe next year.!!