Happy 10th Birthday!

My friend Andy celebrates his 10th birthday today. Yeah, he was born on February 29th, way back in 1968 (which really makes him 40 today)

Since I hear that Andy is feeling a bit glum about turning 40, I hope to cheer him up with some facts about Leaplings to demonstrate how special he is. Here is some information I got off LeapZine :

Your chance of being born on Leap Year Day is about 1 in 1461. Put another way, only 0.0684% of the world's population are Leapers. The table below shows how few of us there are.
Leap Year Day Babies...
per 1461 people... 1
per million people... 684
in the USA... about 200,000
in the world... about 4 million

So, Andy, I hope you celebrate your 10th birthday in style! And being 40 isn’t that bad – most of your friends can attest to that.


The Goal Post

No, not the physical poles people try to get a ball through.

This is my response to Blog Challenge #5 from Scrapshare (note, I haven't done Challenges 1-4 either):

What is your most important personal goal for the year? What are you doing that is just for you? How are you trying to improve yourself?

OK, here it goes -
Run that 1/2 marathon. The background - I have always considered myself the "serious runner" in my family - I have been running since 1992 and ran a lot until Erica was born. Got back into running after moving to Illinois. So last year, my sister Teresa takes up running. And decides to run a 1/2 marathon. My competitive nature kicks in (coupled with a tinge of sibling competition), and I have to run a 1/2 marathon, too. The problem - while Teresa has a local 1/2 marathon to run, I can't find a decent race close to me. I waited too long to register for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon in May. I'm sure I'll find one to run, but for now, I am a runner without a race.

One other random goal - the $0 scrapbooking spending goal for 2008. I have a $50 gift card from Hobby Lobby that Scott gave me at Christmas. That's what I have to spend on scrapbooking supplies this year. I have a TON of supplies that I need to use up.

Improve myself? I picked up my violin again and I am taking lessons. Really, the lessons provide pressure for me to practice. I try to play every day, at least 30 minutes. So far so good, and I do think I have made progress these past two months (the cat no longer hides under the couch when I play - only kidding).

There's my Goal Post. I should make a list of less serious goals - like what new photographic gear I want to buy. Or set a deadline for getting an iPhone. You know, more of the fun stuff.....


Ode to my Young Coffee Press

My first French press coffee maker
You yielded me a steaming hot,
Super strong cup of morning joe,
So easy to use, elegant coffee press

But in cleaning the mess
The glass carafe slipped
Out of my hands
Crash! On the floor
A hundred pieces of glass

A single cup, a single use
Oh, my Bodum French Press
Thee, I barely knew

* Fortunately, replacement carafes are available on Amazon.com.

I also purchased a companion for my coffee press - the Bodum Kenya Tea press.
Gotta l
ove that Super Saver Shipping!


Panoramics the Easy Way - AutoStitch

My friend Mark gave me the heads up on this terrific program that stitches together multiple pictures into a single panoramic picture.

I took these three pictures of the Tower Bridge in London with the intent that I would later merge them together in Photoshop into a panoramic rendering. I also have a series of pictures from China that I took in 2006 with that same intent. Note that I don't claim to have actually DONE anything with said pictures (I finally had the China pictures developed last December - I had given up on my original goal to create the panoramic - until now!).

After downloading the Autostitch program, selecting these three files and clicking a button, here is the resulting panoramic:

So I then processed the pictures from Nanchang, JiangXi Provence, China. I can't wait to get it printed and scrapped!

Here's the link for the Autostitch Program


That's why the Recipe Specifies Milk

Note to those making pancakes using Bisquik - the recipe specifies milk to be used - and now I know why.

Due to a brain cramp, I used water instead of milk while fulfilling my kids' request for Chocolate Chip pancakes. I didn't realize the mistake until after I had added the egg, and I didn't want to pour 2 cups of baking mix down the drain, so I decided to proceed as if the water was a suitable substitute for milk.

Apparently, the milk solids are responsible for creating those fluffy pancakes, because the batch made with the water were thin. Taste wise, they were passable, but the overall quality was down. The kids didn't complain too much because each cake contained a generous number of chocolate chips (which is probably the reason why they eat these in the first place). So, note to self - water just doesn't cut it sometimes.


No Instruments Allowed – Not the a cappella I remember

On Saturday night, I took Erica and her BFF, Kathleen to a concert featuring five a cappella singing groups:
No Comment from the U of I (mixed voices)
Touch of Class from llinois Wesleyan University (all female)
Acafellaz from Illinois State University (all male)
The U of I Rip Chords (all female)
The Xtension Chords from the U of I (all male)

I am reaching into my memory banks in order to recall the last a cappella concert I attended – I think it was 1991’s Concert in Bad Taste, delivered by the Chorallaries of MIT. Yeah, I am a previous member of this group (affectionately referred to as a “Choralum”), and a cappella flows through my blood, so I was excited to see these five groups perform. I even dragged along my tween daughter so I wouldn’t be there alone.

To recap Saturday’s performances, we (and not just me - Erica and Kathleen DID have a good time) really enjoyed all of the singing groups. Our favorite group had to be the Xtension Chords, with their high energy, harmonies and funny songs (sing these lyrics to Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll):

Now we all love our university
There's nothing but corn as far as the eye can see
We love that echo spot and the good ol' morrow plots
Just one school that's good enough for me
And it's time to give some R-E-S-P-E-C-T
I love Illinois, it's the greatest school in the country, baby
I love Illinois, so come and hang around the corn with me
Part of the groups’ performances is the shameless marketing of the respective groups’ performance CDs, T-shirts and websites. And of course, I am a complete sucker when it comes to buying music by independent musicians, so at the end of the night I am $50 poorer, but so much richer musically. But after listening to these carefully produced CDs, I have come to the conclusion that this isn’t quite the a cappella I remember:

We never used mics during our performances – you had to project your voice. But in a large hall, they are a must (albeit a little loud at times), and really adds to the intensity of the performance.

Today’s groups use vocal drumming (beat boxing) extensively – it used to be that simple finger snapping was sufficient. In 1989, the Chorallaries just introduced vocal drumming, thanks to Wes Carroll’s (now of the House Jacks) skills. I didn’t realize how much the vocal drumming has permeated the a cappella scene, and how real it sounds.

College a cappella is big business and has grown in popularity – there are regional and national competitions (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella - ICCA), extensive time spent on producing CDs, with the hope that a vocalist could break out on the national music scene, like Sara Barielles. Her song, Gravity, and group, UCLA's Awaken A Cappella, was featured on the Best of College a Cappella compilation CD in 2004. [Side note – she is my current FAVORITE artist – I love her entire Little Voices album]. Organizations like Varsity Vocals, a-cappella.com, totalvocal, Contemporary a cappella Society (CASA) didn’t exist when I was involved with college a cappella.
When I graduated from MIT in 1989, there were three a cappella groups – that has grown to eight groups presently.

These are all great advancements in this genre of music, but when I listen to my freshly minted copy of 2008’s Best of College a Cappella (BOCA - Album art above), I can’t help but cringe at the obvious digital rendering of perfectly good voices into pseudo synthesizers or electric guitars, which, in my opinion, is not a cappella. [I just ordered the Chorallaries latest CD, Positive Chorallation – I hope they kept the voice manipulation to tolerable levels]

So call me old school in this regard, and I’ll prefer to attend more live concerts than listen to a slickly produced CD – that way I can hear the voices, the not always perfect harmonies and enjoy the raw energy and talent of the singers.


12 on the 12th of February

I signed up for this 12 on 12 challenge, which means that on the 12th of each month, I need to take 12 pictures of my day, mundane as it might be.

I am in a grey mood because of the grey skies, cold temperatures, harsh wind and general disdain towards the season called Winter. A light dusting of snow covers the ground, adding to the grey of the landscape.

I take the kids to Walgreens after work because Valentine's day is in two days and we have nothing for the kids' school valentines parties. Erica and Brian want chocolate, too, and we get Mike and Ikes, Sour Patch Kids for Daddy:

Tonight Erica and I have violin lessons tonight - I am working on a Seitz concerto from my past. Erica is working on the last piece in Sukuki Book 2.

I decide that the curves of the piano are cool:

And the piano room is littered with Brian's Bionicles (he put them away later in the afternoon - they now are strewn all over his room):

The kids play with Hannah after getting their chocolate fix:

Then leave her alone to check out the grey view from the kitchen. I wonder what is going through her brain ("will the wind blow the snow some more?", "I hope the humans don't force me to go out there - it looks so cold")

Tonight's dinner is a chicken pot pie - here is the start of the filling - you know it has to taste good if there is bacon in it.....


Yeah, my geography stinks


The difference a week makes

Exactly one week ago, I was immersed in the sights of London, examining Modern Art by some of the world's renown artists.

Today I paid $36 to see the Hannah Montana Concert movie in 3D with Erica.

Hence the title of today's blog entry.

The sad thing? The Hannah Montana Concert movie was pretty decent.



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